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Inability to make threes sinks Wizards vs. Nets, who happen to be great at stopping them

Inability to make threes sinks Wizards vs. Nets, who happen to be great at stopping them

In an age where taking and making a lot of threes is every NBA team's goal, the Brooklyn Nets have mastered the ability to prevent their opponents from doing so. The Wizards found that out the hard way on Friday night in their 115-104 loss, which dropped them to 5-10 on the season.

Against the Nets, the Wizards attempted only 17 threes. They made three of them, which is tied for the fewest long range makes for any team this season. 

Only three times this season has an NBA team made only three three-pointers. Brooklyn can boast two of those games, having also held the Cavs to three triples on Oct. 24.

To their credit, the Nets are exceptionally good at locking down the perimeter. After beating the Wizards, they have surrendered the fewest three-point makes and attempts in the NBA.

The Wizards haven't shot well from three this season, but they have at least been good at taking them. They are 27th out of 30 teams at 32.2 percent from three, but their 31.9 attempts per game are about five more than they averaged last season.

Shooting more threes has been the Wizards' intention. It's something head coach Scott Brooks wanted to see this season from his team. 

Though they aren't going in, he believes they will at some point. The Wizards were fourth in basketball last year in three-point percentage (37.5).

But on Friday, the Nets took the Wizards' recent shooting woes to the extreme. They did so by using a two-tiered defensive approach.

They closed out the three-point line, forcing the Wizards to pass or dribble into the mid-range. While the Wizards would normally keep going to the rim, waiting for them was center Jarrett Allen.

Allen blocks 1.9 shots per game and alters many more. He also happens to have been acquired with the 2017 first round pick the Wizards sent over in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade. 

Without an easy path to the rim, the Wizards were encouraged to settle for midrange shots. That's exactly what they do not want to do, but they took what the defense was giving them. 

It just didn't work.

"They were clogging up the paint and we just didn’t have anything going offensively," Brooks said.

Of the Wizards' 87 total field goal attempts against the Nets, 80.5 percent of them were two-pointers. Their season average is 63.5 percent.

"They forced us to take the midrange shot, which is a bad shot. It was tough," guard Austin Rivers said.

The Wizards have now lost three of their last four games against the Nets dating back to last season. In the three losses, they have made five threes or fewer. In the lone win, they made 10.

Though threes are always important in today's NBA, they have been a huge determinant of wins and losses in this particular matchup.

Shooting guard Bradley Beal, for one, believes the way to get threes off against Brooklyn is to play faster. He thinks they need to take more in transition.

That may be the case. But they have to figure out something against this Brooklyn team because the current approach hasn't been working.

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Mystics' Kristi Toliver named WNBA All-Star reserve for a second straight year

Mystics' Kristi Toliver named WNBA All-Star reserve for a second straight year

Washington Mystics guard Kristi Toliver is a WNBA All-Star once again. 

Toliver was named an All-Star reserve on Monday as selected by the league's coaches. She joins Elena Delle Donne, who was named a captain of one of the two teams, and head coach Mike Thibault as representatives from the Mystics. 

This selection gives Toliver, 5-7, the third honor of her career and the second with Washington. Last year en route to the franchise's first WNBA Finals appearance Toliver was named an All-Star. She also got the nod in 2013 when she played with the Los Angeles Sparks. 

Through 15 games, Toliver is averaging 12.1 points and is second in the league with 5.7 assists per game, which is also on pace for a career-high.

She is shooting at a career-best .497 clip and is looking as explosive as ever at 32-years-old. With her and Delle Donne, the Mystics are 9-6 and second in the Eastern Conference.

In the offseason, Toliver is also an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards. Often she worked on the player development side of the staff and closely with Bradley Beal. 

Delle Donne will have the first choice of selection in the All-Star game draft. As a reserve, Toliver cannot be selected until after the starters are chosen. 

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Mark Jackson thinks Wizards should retool like the Clippers, not tank or trade Bradley Beal

Mark Jackson thinks Wizards should retool like the Clippers, not tank or trade Bradley Beal

The Washington Wizards have flipped their roster this offseason, to the point where they are one or two moves away from what could be considered a significant rebuild. Those two moves would be trading Bradley Beal and John Wall.

The team has no plans to do the former and probably can't do the latter due to Wall's injury and contract. But the point at which they arrived has sparked some debate about whether the Wizards should go all in and blow it up completely.

Count ESPN's Mark Jackson among those who believes the Wizards should not completely tank. The NBA Finals broadaster and longtime star point guard thinks there is a model to follow that equals a reset but also keeps Beal, in particular, in the mix.

"The Clippers," Jackson said. "They didn't tear it down, but competed until the point where they added pieces to where it gave them a real chance. I think that's the avenue to take."

The Clippers have dominated headlines recently after signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George, a pair of moves that have installed them as title contenders. But Jackson was speaking more about the steps they took the previous year. They traded off many of their pieces, but did not fully rebuild. And they did it all while keeping their veteran head coach.

"They didn't sell all the way out. They were relevant and competed and they gained valuable experience as they got to the point where they are a championship contender," Jackson said.

"You lose Blake Griffin, you lose DeAndre Jordan and you lose Chris Paul; everybody says that's a teardown, but they defended, they competed at a high level and they were pros. They were high character guys. Good things happened until now where they have a real chance to win it all."

The Clippers took a step back when they traded Paul before the 2017-18 season, but not a major step back. They went from 51 to 42 wins. After trading Griffin and letting Jordan go in free agency, they took a step forward and improved to 48 wins this past season.

L.A. maintained a winning culture while shifting gears. It is worth noting the two biggest winners in 2019 free agency - them and the Brooklyn Nets - were not tanking teams starting from scratch.

There are plenty of differences between where the Wizards are now and where the Clippers were when they began their reset, of course. L.A. had more talent to deal from and got more back in some of the trades they made. 

They got a lot for Griffin and then Tobias Harris when they traded him to the Sixers. The Wizards have little to show for the deals they made involving Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr. and Markieff Morris. There is also the obstacle of Wall's injury and contract, which complicates things further.

But, as Jackson notes, the Wizards are on a different playing field. They don't have to compete in the gauntlet that is the Western Conference.

"The fortunate thing for them is that they're in the Eastern Conference. They have a home run hitter in Bradley Beal who is finally getting the recognition he deserves," he said.

"Ultimately, it's about getting John back healthy and allowing these young players to grown and develop and continue to add pieces that can play a role. I think the future is bright for them."

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