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Jodie Meeks' shot against Celtics was another sign he's turned his season around

Jodie Meeks' shot against Celtics was another sign he's turned his season around

The idea Jodie Meeks would hit a game-tying three on the road against the Boston Celtics in the closing seconds of regulation would have seemed improbable, at best, just a short time ago. But there he was on Wednesday night, jumping for joy at TD Garden and high-fiving Otto Porter who set him up with the assist.

It was Meeks' best moment so far in his short time with the Wizards which has mostly been characterized by shooting woes and hopes for a trade out of Washington before the February deadline. In just a few short weeks since then, Meeks has effectively turned his season around and earned some trust from the coaching staff along the way.

Meeks' shot going in against the Celtics was a reminder of that, but also the mere fact he was in that position with just seconds remaining and the Wizards down by three. Head coach Scott Brooks kept him on the floor, knowing he needed shooters in that situation. And Porter passed Meeks the ball, knowing he was capable of making the shot.

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Those subtle endorsements were not lost on Meeks.

"Just to have the confidence in my teammates means a lot," he said. "No matter how many shots I miss, I’m going to have confidence to feel like the next one is going in."

It has been a tale of two seasons for Meeks. In his first 41 games, he shot just 35 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from three. In his last 25 games, Meeks has shot 47.1 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three, exactly his career average.

Though many of his numbers are still down from last year, his season field goal percentage (39.2) is rising and not far off from what he shot in 2016-17 with the Magic (40.2). 

As much focus as Meeks deserves for his shot, there were a lot of elements to the play that led to its result. For one, Porter's presence of mind to pass to Meeks in the corner rather than go up for a layup appears brilliant in hindsight.

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At the time, not all of Porter's teammates expected it.

"I was thinking 'what the hell are you thinking, Otto,' because he had a layup," guard Bradley Beal said. "It was a great IQ play. That’s being aware of who’s on the floor and a very unselfish play."

Markieff Morris made the first pass on the inbound to Porter who was cutting into the lane. His twin brother Marcus, a forward for the Celtics, was drawn to Porter and left Meeks open.

Marcus made a mistake and Markieff could only laugh about it in the wake of the Wizards' win.

"I know my brother feels just how I felt, giving up a three," Markieff said, noting how he made a key mistake against Kyrie Irving the last time the two teams squared off in February.

Marcus may have lost focus for a moment. He may have doubted Meeks' ability to make the shot. But he got it to go down and the Wizards' confidence in Meeks will only grow because of it.

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

At his final media availability of the 2017-18 season, John Wall highlighted specific types of players he wanted to see added to the Wizards roster this summer. Most notably, he pointed to an athletic big and bench scoring.

The Wizards ended up adding those things and more.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green to free agent deals, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. Howard is the athletic big and Rivers is the bench scorer Wall coveted.

Whether coincidental or not, Wall got his wish. And he's excited for the possibilities now that the Wizards appear to have shored up some weaknesses.

In his recent interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall offered thoughts on each key addition.

On Howard: "Even though he's older, he's still an athletic big and still has respect in this league. I mean, averaging [16.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg], he's a guy who can score in the low-post and block shots, a guy that gets a lot of rebounds and a guy that can catch lobs and do things that when teams switch against us or we're attacking the paint, if they help for a second then we're throwing lobs. Now, do you get more layups? Probably. Or, you get more wide open threes because guys are going to have to crack down on him. If you don't crack down on him, that's an automatic layup or a lob. I think that benefits us a lot. It's going to help. If you look at [Clint] Capela, DeAndre [Jordan] and those types of guys that are athletic, JaVale [McGee]. Even JaVale at times, being athletic and just getting to the paint. Guys are stepping up and you're throwing lobs to those guys. We have a person that can do that."

On Rivers: "I think it's going to be fun and interesting. Austin is someone who I've always watched since high school. He's a competitive guy. He definitely can score the ball. High volume shooter, once he gets it going, he's going. I think it just gives us that guy that we've never really had off the bench, that can create for himself and can create for his teammates at the two-guard position."

On Green: "Just being able to switch one through four, a guy that can post up if you put smaller guys on him. He can guard every position. He's athletic and can run the floor with us in transition. He does the little things that a lot of people don't notice."

On Brown: "He's very poised for his age. He doesn't try to force anything. The only thing I would tell him is just be more aggressive... and make mistakes. Try to make mistakes and improve your game to get better. It's going to be hard to find minutes and at practice at times with [Kelly Oubre, Jr.] and Otto [Porter, Jr.] and those guys being there."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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