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A missed timeout baffles Aces coach Bill Laimbeer, helps Mystics hold on for Game 1 win

A missed timeout baffles Aces coach Bill Laimbeer, helps Mystics hold on for Game 1 win

WASHINGTON -- Las Vegas Aces coach Bill Laimbeer is hard to miss at 6-foot-11 with a booming voice that with its deep timber can level anyone standing within 100 feet. 

But as his underdog team pushed the ball up court in the frantic closing seconds of Tuesday’s WNBA semifinal game against the Mystics, Laimbeer might as well have been an invisible ghost. 

With Washington ahead 97-95, an Elena Delle Donne miss with 4.5 seconds to play gave the Aces a chance. Laimbeer wanted a timeout to set a play. He didn’t get it. He screamed again. No whistle. Maybe the roaring crowd at the Entertainment and Sports Arena drowned out Laimbeer's furious pleading. Whatever the case, referee Tiara Cruse didn’t grant it and Kelsey Plum’s rushed floater at the buzzer missed.

The favored Mystics, the top seed in the WNBA playoffs after a 26-8 regular season, held on for a win on a night when they were admittedly far from their best. The Aces were left pondering what might have been if they could have just set up a final a play. Washington took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series with Game 2 set for Thursday in the District. 

“I was right standing next to the referee by design. As soon as they missed a shot I was going to be yelling “Timeout! Timeout! Timeout!”,” Laimbeer said. “They missed the shot, we got the rebound. I yelled it five times and she even looked at me when I was yelling and made a conscious decision not to call a timeout.”

Laimbeer said he expected an investigation of some sort by the WNBA. He wasn’t as concerned with the non-call on Plum at the end. That’s a bang-bang play that could go either way and referees are reluctant to whistle anyway. But he also said the ESPN television broadcast will show without a doubt that he requested a timeout. It was a tough way to lose. 

“It’s unfortunate,” Laimbeer said. “It didn’t cost us the game. But it cost us a good shot.”

Even Mystics players like guard Kristi Toliver admitted they heard the timeout call and were surprised play wasn’t stopped. Las Vegas' players were thinking more about the possessions before the final one when they had chances to tie a game they played well enough to win.  

“I think it really just started not even with the non-foul call, but with us not calling a timeout and being aware in that situation,” Aces forward A’ja Wilson said. “It really just comes to that it wasn’t just that. It was the plays and the turnovers that we had and the rebounds that we missed all added up to that. We can’t really fault the refs. It really comes from us.”

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Celtics resting all of their best players offers Wizards good chance for first win in final bubble game

Celtics resting all of their best players offers Wizards good chance for first win in final bubble game

It has been five months since the Wizards last won a game and it could be another four months until they have another chance. They enter Thursday's season finale against the Boston Celtics (12 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington) having lost all 10 of their games in the NBA's restart bubble, though technically only seven of them count.

That leaves Thursday's game with some relatively high stakes. The Wizards are trying to avoid leaving Disney World winless.

The good news is that the Boston Celtics see nothing to play for, so they are resting basically all of their best players. Their injury report reads like a starting lineup.

Out are Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis. Brown, Hayward and Smart are listed as out due to rest. The others have minor injuries. 

That could create an opening for the Wizards, who have yet to take advantage of the few breaks offered by their seeding game schedule. They lost to the Suns back before Phoenix became the surprise team of the bubble. They also lost to the Brooklyn Nets with most of their roster missing and then again to the Pacers who were without Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

On Tuesday, they fell to the Bucks who were missing Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton and saw Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected in the first half. The Wizards' lack of winning experience due to their very young roster has proven too much to overcome.

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Maybe that will change on Thursday as the Wizards sense their final opportunity for a win before they get on a flight and head back to Washington to begin their offseason. They will see a Celtics team whose top remaining scorer is Enes Kanter, who averages 8.1 points per game.

Boston is one of the best teams in the NBA when healthy. They have the third-best record in the East and rank top-four in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

And they still have one of their most valuable assets: head coach Brad Stevens. He happened to get a contract extension on Wednesday.

The odds might actually be in the Wizards' favor despite the fact they are missing Bradley Beal, John Wall and Davis Bertans. We'll see if they can take advantage.

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Report: Giannis Antetokounmpo suspended one game by NBA for headbutting Moe Wagner

Report: Giannis Antetokounmpo suspended one game by NBA for headbutting Moe Wagner

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks predicted that Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo would be suspended by the NBA for headbutting Moe Wagner in Tuesday night's game, and that is exactly what has happened.

Antetokounmpo will be banned for one game as the Bucks close out the regular season on Thursday against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Bucks will begin their postseason run after that as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Antetokounmpo and Wagner got into it in the first half after Wagner took a charge against him. Antetokounmpo approached Wagner after the whistle and lunged forward for the headbutt.

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He was ejected after the referees reviewed the replay. The Bucks still held on to beat the Wizards despite missing the reigning MVP.

Antetokounmpo, 25, is likely to win the MVP award again this year. He finishes his 2019-20 regular season with averages of 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.

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