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Wizards look to rebound against Garnett, Celtics


Wizards look to rebound against Garnett, Celtics

Anderson Varejao's game is typically more subtle than highlight generating. The center's value stems more from rebounding and heady play than direct point producing. Perhaps also being lumped in with that "LeBron James has no talent around him" era has kept the Cavaliers primary big man in the underrated category.

Oh, those around the league know what Varejao brings to the court. Yet his lack of perennial All-Star street cred made his 23 rebounds and role in Cleveland's dominating effort on the glass against Washington in the season opener something of a stunner.

Nobody overlooks Kevin Garnett. The future Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics stalwart is the next interior presence the Wizards must contend with, starting Saturday night in Washington's home opener and again Wednesday in Boston.

"KG, he's a league MVP, a champion, brings a lot of experience," Wizards center Emeka Okafor said. "He knows how to play the game. With him, you just have to keep your eye on him, limit his effectiveness."

Regardless of the next opponent, the Wizards know they cannot have a repeat of their board work, especially the first three quarters, of the94-84 loss at Cleveland.

"Obviously, we’ve got to rebound the ball better than we did in Cleveland - and we’ve got to make sure that happens," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said following Friday's practice.

Being on the wrong end of a 54-39 rebounding total against Cleveland not only allowed the Cavs to score a truckload of second-chance points, it also prevented the Wizards from getting out on the fast break. Without John Wall, Nene, and Kevin Seraphin, Washington struggled to score in half court sets.

"We’ve got to have good pace of the game. I thought our pace was up and down in Cleveland," Wittman said. "When it was up, we were pretty good. When we walked the ball up and played five on five, it was a little hard, especially with the injuries we have. We’ve got to make sure we keep pace of the game, take care of the ball and rebound."

The frontcourt should receive a boost Saturday with Seraphin's expected return. The third-year center, out since Oct. 13 after injuring his calf during a preseason game, practiced for a second straight day on Friday.

Last season's Celtics ranked last in rebounding and Garnett averaged under seven boards in four games against Washington. Don't count on Wittman emphasizing those stats.

Garnett kicked off his 18th season by yanking down 12 boards in Boston's season opening loss at Miami. For the most part in this case, age is just a number.

"As you get older in this league, you learn how to be just more effective," said the 30-year-old Okafor, who has battled against Garnett many times over his nine-year career. "I was watching Tim Duncan last night. He's 36, 37 and he's just getting it in. Just shows if you know what you're doing you can do it."

One area about Garnett that Wittman might emphasize to his bevy of young players? That the 14-time All-Star is still cranking out strong campaigns despite all the wear and tear that comes with playing aggressively in the trenches.

"He’s been a pretty lucky guy from an injury standpoint, to withstand the years he’s played, the way he plays," Wittman said of Garnett. "That’s one thing people don’t realize. He plays as hard as anybody and to not have serious injuries, because of the way he plays through whatever it is, 17 years, is remarkable.

"But that’s a testament to him. He’s a guy that, this is a 12-month a year job for him and he takes care of his body. Takes care of himself. Always has. One of those guys, you never see him in trouble or hear stories about him off the floor and that’s just who is and why he’s had the success he’s had."

Well, you do hear some on-court stories about Garnett, frequently mentioned in the context of the league's "dirtiest player."

Said Okafor, "Whatever he does it works."

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' last-second loss to Heat

5 must-see moments from Wizards' last-second loss to Heat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Miami Heat 113-112 on Thursday night in their 2018-19 regular-season opener. Here are five plays or moments worth revisiting...

Five Must-See Moments from Wizards vs. Heat

1. BooooOubre

Someone was in the Halloween spirit. Two weeks before the holiday arrives, Kelly Oubre Jr. is already wearing costumes.

He showed up to the game wearing chains and holding a skull. Perhaps this was intended to send a message to his arch-rival, Kelly Olynyk, who now plays for the Heat:

More on Oynyk later...

2.  Flashes of brilliance from Wizards bench

Though the Wizards' bench produced mixed results, there were many moments where they flashed the potential to be much-improved year-over-year. The guard combination of Tomas Satoransky and Austin Rivers, in particular, is enticing. 

On this play, they were on the same page as Rivers caught the defense sleeping and Satoransky found him with a well-timed bounce pass:

3. Jason Smith makes the most of opportunity

With Dwight Howard out, head coach Scott Brooks had to turn to Ian Mahinmi as the starter and that meant Jason Smith as his backup. Smith had an uneven night battling Hassan Whiteside, but made some nice plays on the offensive end. 

On this one, he finished an alley-oop assisted by Wall:

Smith also had this dunk just a few minutes earlier:

Smith had four points and six rebounds.

4. Wall-Star Mode

This was the best play of the night. Wall, who had been getting into the lane with ease for much of the first half, exploded to the rim and threw down one of his signature left-handed hooks:

Wall had 26 points, nine assists, three blocks, and a steal.

5. Olynyk sinks Wizards ... again

Okay, back to Olynyk. He was booed all night by Wizards fans, who remember his incident with Oubre in the 2017 playoffs, but the Heat center had the last laugh. He was in perfect position to grab an offensive rebound and lay it in for the go-ahead points in the final seconds:

That was Miami's 22nd offensive rebound of the night. What a tough way for the Wizards to lose their opener, on a complete lapse in focus right when it counted most.

BONUS: Oubre stays hyped

Oubre didn't have a great shooting night, as he went 2-for-8 from the field and 0-for-3 from three, but he did a nice job attacking the rim. On this play, he cleaned up a miss with a killer putback slam.

The only problem is that he got a technical foul for taunting Whiteside right after.


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Otto Porter Jr. begins 2018-19 season with way too few shot attempts in Wizards' loss

Otto Porter Jr. begins 2018-19 season with way too few shot attempts in Wizards' loss

The initiative to get Otto Porter Jr. more attempts from three this season is not off to a great start.

That right there is called an understatement. Because it would be one thing if Porter only took a couple of them, but he literally took zero against the Heat on Thursday night in the Wizards' 2018-19 regular season opener.

Yes, one of the NBA's best three-point shooters didn't even get off a single attempt from long range. That is simply hard to justify, especially after a preseason in which the team had a stated goal to shoot more threes than ever before.

It wasn't just threes. The often deferential Porter was even more gun shy than normal. He only took seven total shots in the 113-112 loss and topped out at just nine points.

Porter, in fact, had just one field goal attempt until there was 1:19 remaining in the first half, when he got two of them on the same play thanks to a rebound on his own miss.

Porter still affected the game in other ways, per usual. He had 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks and finished +1 in +/- rating.

But for Porter to reach the next level as a player, he has to add volume to his efficient scoring numbers.

"We will look at the film and figure it out," head coach Scott Brooks said. "It's not like we go into the game wanting to only shoot 26 threes [as a team] and Otto shoot zero."

Brooks continued to say the problem is a combination of several things. More plays could be called for Porter and his teammates could look for him more often.

But ultimately, it's up to Porter to assert himself and take initiative. Granted, that may have been easier said than done against the Heat, who boast one of the best perimeter defenders in basketball in Josh Richardson. They are a scrappy team with athletic and hard-nosed defenders on the wing.

For Porter, though, that shouldn't matter. Ultimately, his share of the offense is up to him. The ball is going to swing around often enough for him to create his own opportunities.

Porter only taking seven shots is a bad sign considering Thursday was a better opportunity to get shots than he may receive in most games. The Wizards added Dwight Howard this summer and last season he averaged 11.2 shots per game, 3.4 more than Marcin Gortat, whom he replaced in the starting lineup.

It won't be easy, but the Wizards need Porter to take matters into his own hands.