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How Mike Thibault's dancing allowed Mystics to relax before the playoffs

How Mike Thibault's dancing allowed Mystics to relax before the playoffs

WASHINGTON - If there is one thing that Mike Thibault should know about 2019, is that you cannot hide anything. There are cameras everywhere.

The Washington Mystics head coach found that out the hard this past week. At Elena Delle Donne's 30th birthday Coach Thibault broke it down on the dance floor with Aerial Powers.

Instantly, Natasha Cloud broke out her phone and Thibault's dance moves were available for the world to see.

Let's just say the coach should leave the dancing to his players. Either way, Thibault's attempt at pleasing his team did not go unnoticed. Seeing the coach outside of his normal role left everyone with smiles and left his players wanting more. 

"I have no comment," LaToya Sanders said when asked about Thibault's dance moves. "We had a good time at Elena's birthday party. It was nice to you know, see him kind of relaxed and you know cutting a rug on the dance floor. So we were all out there just having a good time and it was a much-needed stress reliever type day for us."

Delle Donne herself was shocked at how much her coach put out there, "Is he going to be okay?... He can drop it lower than I thought. That's impressive."

It gave the team a rare break in the heat of a playoff push. Allowed them to relax and reset as the team attempts to go one step farther than 2018 when they made the WNBA Finals. 

Before Thibault tried to recreate Footloose, the Mystics were rolling through the season grind. They had played 13 games in the past month, winning all but two of them and vaulting to the top of the WNBA standings. Yet, unlike past seasons in the WNBA, the Mystics impressive year did not allow them to cruise into the playoffs. The Connecticut Sun had forced Washington to kept their foot on the gas pedal to battle for the No. 1 seed. By virtue of Connecticut winning the regular-season series, the Sun had the tiebreaker, meaning Washington had to keep winning. 

Friday's victory over the Wings paired with Connecticut's loss finally ended the race for the top seed. Washington (25-8) has the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage for the playoffs for the first time ever. 

The pedal gets to lean back and so does the team, finally. Expect a lot of starters to miss the final regular-season game against Chicago on Sunday. Those that will be sidelined will get to extend the eight-day break, through the double-bye, before their first postseason contest on Sept. 17. Washington gets to skip the first two rounds and go straight to the semifinals as one of the league's top two teams.

It will be much-needed rest for a team that has rolled through competition throughout 2019 and outright destroyed teams. 

"Where I want to be [heading into the playoffs], is really healthy," Thibault said on Friday. "With some time off and some practice time, we'll get kind of our rhythm back a little bit. But for the most part, when you're 25-8, and you've won 16 of 18, it's hard to complain about a lot."

Health will be of the utmost importance once the playoffs come around. Last year the team had a hobbled Delle Donne, toughing it out when she clearly wasn't 100 percent. 

This season Delle Donne has been healthy for a majority of the season, playing in 30 of the team's 33 contests so far. You wouldn't know it though with a facemask that she has worn since June to go with the knee brace on her left leg. 

Kristi Toliver also has been wearing a matching right knee brace, not dressed on the bench. She's been out since Aug. 8. Her availability for the playoffs is still unknown.

Then it's Tianna Hawkins, who's been out for back-to-back games. 

Up until this point, they've been pushed and players spending time out on the court longer than anticipated. While it's great to continue to be in an aggressive mindset, it has worn down.

"It's good to have games like this that mean a lot. Because usually you get to coast and it doesn't matter at the end. But it feels like playoffs so it's good for us," Delle Donne said on Friday. "And then yeah we get a nice rest. So it's like 'okay go all out, we'll be alright.'"

It goes without saying that everyone on the Mystics needed this break. The fact that it's prolonged only benefits them and their championship aspirations.

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Isaiah Thomas believes he paved the way for load management in the NBA

Isaiah Thomas believes he paved the way for load management in the NBA

Isaiah Thomas doesn't just think his hip injury paved the way for load management in the NBA, he knows it did. 

As Thomas prepares for his real return to Boston, a city he spent two-and-a-half seasons in before he was traded to Cleveland in the Kyrie Irving trade, he reflected on the hip injury that has derailed his career. 

"I don't feel like it, I know I did," Thomas said when asked if he thought he took the bullet that has helped create load management. "That's players being smart about their body, worrying about themselves which you should. The most important thing is yourself."

Thomas was in the midst of one of the best offensive seasons in Celtics history when Karl-Anthony Towns fell on top of him and injured the All-Star guard's hip. Thomas decided to play hurt, knowing his team leaned on him for almost all of their offense. 

When the injury continued to flare up during the playoffs, Thomas pushed on and led the Celtics to an Eastern Conference Finals berth after downing the Wizards in an epic seven-game series. Despite his hip injury causing major concerns for his long-term production, Boston traded him, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and two draft picks for Kyrie Irving. 

Thomas experienced a brutal 2017-18 campaign with the Cavaliers before he was traded to the Lakers midseason, and then eventually had to miss significant time on the Nuggets the following season after electing for hip surgery. Thomas never cracked the rotation in Denver, and now hopes to regain his place as one of the league's premier offensive threats in Washington, D.C. 

"The organizations most of the time, they care about what you can do for them, they don't care if you get hurt," he said.

Playing hurt has cost Thomas a lot of money and his status in the league, which is something current NBA superstars aren't willing to risk.

Whether you agree with load management or not, the risk that comes with playing hurt, as we've seen with Thomas, far outweighs the benefits of a player like Kawhi Leonard playing both games of a back-to-back.

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How to watch Wizards at Celtics 'Predict the Game' broadcast

How to watch Wizards at Celtics 'Predict the Game' broadcast

The Washington Wizards are traveling to Boston to play a red-hot Boston Celtics team that currently sits atop the Eastern Conference with an 8-1 record. Washington, on the other hand, has lost two in a row to fall to 2-6.

Their rosters have changed quite a bit over the past few seasons, but the Wizards and Celtics have built a rivalry that surely will still be felt among the fans.

With Isaiah Thomas also making his return to Boston as a starter, there is plenty of game action to pay attention to. Take your Wizards experience to the next level and get involved in the action with NBC Sports Washington's new Predict the Game contest.

'PREDICT THE GAME' HOW TO WATCH

What is this broadcast? Predict the Game is an easy-to-enter, free contest that allows fans to predict various game and player performance outcomes through a series of approximately 12-15 questions per quarter that will appear on-screen during the alternate telecast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. Predict the Game leaderboards will be displayed at select times, and the winner of each contest will be revealed throughout the game and during NBC Sports Washington’s postgame coverage.

Where can I find it? Contest questions and leaderboards will be displayed on NBC Sports Washington Plus (Channel Finder).

Additionally, the broadcast can be streamed on desktopiOS and Android devices. 

The NBC Sports Washington Plus presentation will, for the first time, feature special hosts, who will appear at various times to address Predict the Game participants and provide contest updates, information and results. The enhanced experience will contain the majority of the same video and audio (including announcers) as the primary live-game coverage, which will be available simultaneously on NBC Sports Washington.

How do I win? Fans will earn points for both answering questions (1 point) and correct predictions (1 or 2 points, depending on the question), with the top eligible scorer at the end of each game earning or splitting the $500 prize.

Each quarter will be its own contest, with an entirely new leaderboard starting from scratch, so even if fans miss out on the start of the game there will still be plenty of time to play and win. 

Fans must enter Predict the Game, which is open to join throughout the entire game, and submit their predictions at www.nbcsportswashington.com/predict.

WIZARDS AT CELTICS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics, 2019-20 NBA Regular Season Game 9

Where: TD Garden, Boston, Mass.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards at Celtics will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington, and the Predict The Game broadcast will be on NBC Sports Washington Plus (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards at Celtics on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS AT CELTICS TV SCHEDULE

6:30 PM: Wizards Outsiders
7:00 PM: Wizards Pregame Live
7:30 PM: Wizards at Celtics (Regular broadcast on NBC Sports Washington, Predict the Game broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus)
10:00 PM: Wizards Postgame Live
11:00 PM: Wizards Talk

WIZARDS 2019-20 'PREDICT THE GAME' SCHEDULE

November 6:  at Indiana (7 p.m.)

November 13: at Boston (7:30 p.m.)

November 22: vs Charlotte (7 p.m.)

December 5: vs Philadelphia (7 p.m.)

December 10: at Charlotte (7 p.m.)

December 18: vs Chicago (7 p.m.)

December 26: at Detroit (7 p.m.)

January 1: vs Orlando (6 p.m.)

January 6: vs Boston (7 p.m.)

January 20: vs Detroit (2 p.m.)

January 26: at Atlanta (6 p.m.)

February 3: vs Golden State (7 p.m.)

February 11: vs Chicago (7 p.m.)

February 21: vs Cleveland (7 p.m.)

February 26: vs Brooklyn (7 p.m.)

March 3: at Sacramento (10 p.m.)

March 10: vs New York (7 p.m.)

March 18: at Brooklyn (7:30 p.m.)

March 15: vs Phoenix (7 p.m.)

April 1: vs New Orleans (7 p.m.)

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