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Wizards need Bradley Beal to be better to have chance in series with Raptors

Wizards need Bradley Beal to be better to have chance in series with Raptors

The Bradley Beal who dominated the Raptors during the regular season, the guy who made the All-Star team and was the Wizards' best player for much of the year was just not the same for the first two games of Washington's first round playoff series with Toronto.

Beal was fine in the Wizards' Game 1 loss, but just fine. He had 19 points, below his season average of 22.6, and shot 2-for-6 from three.

In their Game 2 loss he was unrecognizable. He got in early foul trouble and never found a rhythm.

This is a guy who averaged 28.8 points against the Raptors through four regular season games. All of those were without John Wall. Beal was the No. 1 focus of the Raptors' defense, yet they could not stop him.

Now with Wall by his side, Beal has all of a sudden been neutralized. He scored only nine points in Game 2, shot 3-for-11 from the field and 1-for-5 from three. In large part due to four fouls, two of which came quickly in the first quarter, Beal logged only 24 minutes.

"We need him. We’re going to have trouble beating this team if he doesn’t play better," head coach Scott Brooks said.

Beal's nine points in Game 2 were the lowest in his 36-game postseason career and the same goes for his 24 minutes. Only twice has he shot worse in the playoffs than the 27.3 percent he posted on Tuesday.

Beal wasn't alone. Only Wall, who had 29 points and nine assists, produced among their starting five. Marcin Gortat went scoreless, Markieff Morris had only six points and Otto Porter, one of the NBA's best three-point shooters, never even attempted a three.

The end result was ugly. The Wizards allowed 130 points, the most they have surrendered in a playoff game since 1986, before almost all of their roster was born.

Beal, though, stood out above all because he is usually an elite offensive player. He posted an unsightly -34 plus-minus rating, the worst for a Wizards player in the playoffs in 20 years. 

So far, the Raptors have figured out a way to limit his effectiveness.

"The Raptors are doing a good job being physical with him," Brooks said. "He’s missed some open shots and he hasn’t been able to get into the lane and to the free throw line. It’s a little bit on him, it’s a little bit on me and it’s a little bit on John."

This series features a matchup of arguably the two best shooting guards in the Eastern Conference, Beal and Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan. In Game 2, DeRozan was markedly better.

The Raptors All-Star poured in 37 points, 20 of which came in the first half. He shot 14-for-23 (60.9%) from the field and 3-for-6 from three.

DeRozan helped stall Beal on defense and also contributed to his foul trouble. For one game, he looked like the better player. For the season, it was arguably a toss-up.

That is among several reasons to believe Beal will not be held down for long. He dropped 23 points or more in his four meetings with the Raptors this season, including a 38-point gem on Nov. 5. 

The Raptors had no luck guarding him all season. Have they really found the solution all of a sudden? That seems unlikely.

The odds appear good for Beal to have a breakout game and soon. If he doesn't, the Wizards may be in serious trouble.

RELATED: BROOKS SAYS CHANGE COULD BE COMING FOR STARTING LINEUP

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Markieff Morris' season...

Player: Markieff Morris

Position: Power forward

Age: 28

2017-18 salary: $8 million

2017-18 stats: 73 G, 27.0 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 48.0 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 82.0 FT%, 53.6 eFG%, 116 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 12/1 vs. Pistons - 23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, zero turnovers, 10-for-16 FG, 2-for-3 3PT

Season review: It took quite a while for Markieff Morris to get healthy in the 2017-18 season. He was sidelined to begin last offseason with the ankle injury he suffered against the Celtics in the playoffs, then in September had surgery on both his abdomen and groin. The sports hernia surgery was known, while the groin procedure was revealed once the season was over.

Morris only missed nine games in the entire season, but took time to find his rhythm early. He averaged just 9.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in 14 games in the month of November. He picked it up after that, though he never quite reached the level we saw from him in 2016-17 in terms of volume production.

Morris played less minutes, took less shots, scored fewer points and grabbed less rebounds than the season before. On the other hand, he was more efficient than ever. Morris shot 48 percent from the field, his best since 2013-14, and posted career-highs in three-point percentage (36.7) and effective field-goal percentage (53.6). 

The Wizards could use more scoring from Morris moving forward, especially at times when one of their primary options is injured, as was the case in 2017-18 when John Wall missed 41 games. An active and engaged Morris changes everything for the Wizards. 

When Morris scored 15 points or more this season, the Wizards went 15-8. The season before, they went 22-9 when he got to the 15-point mark. 

It's a bit difficult to project Morris' role for the 2018-19 season at this point, given the fact he's entering a contract year and the most logical area for the Wizards to make significant changes (if they choose to) is in their frontcourt. Also, as Morris discussed in his exit interview, he knows more time at center in small-ball sets could be in his future.

Regardless of what happens with the team, it's a huge summer for Morris individually. If he sets himself up well for a big year in 2018-19, he could earn a nice payday in what might be his last long-term contract given his age.

Potential to improve: Rebounding, screens, scoring

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Marcin Gortat, C

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Marcin Gortat's season...

Player: Marcin Gortat

Position: Center

Age: 34

2017-18 salary: $12.8 million

2017-18 stats: 82 G, 25.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51.8 FG%, 67.5 FT%, 51.8 eFG%, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 10/18 vs. Sixers - 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, assist, 7-for-12 FG

Season review: Marcin Gortat is self-aware enough to know that what happened to him in 2017-18 was inevitable in many ways. He even publicly called it before the season.

He was one year older, with Ian Mahinmi healthy and in the rotation, and with the NBA continuing to move towards small-ball and big men who can play on the perimeter. As a result, Gortat saw his role in the Wizards rotation pared down noticeably.

Though he still started all 82 games, his minutes went down from 31.2 per game the year before the 25.3. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who played the majority of the season coming off the bench, logged more minutes than Gortat, though he was a starter.

Gortat's minutes were his fewest since the 2009-10 season, when he was a 25-year-old bench player for the Orlando Magic. His numbers this season followed suit. Gortat's points and rebounds per game were both the lowest since that 2009-10 campaign.

Gortat averaged a career-best 10.4 rebounds per game in 2016-17, but the minutes had a direct effect on his volume of boards. He pulled in 2.4 less per game this season despite his rebound percentage (17.0) being close to his career average (17.5). That career average, by the way, is 30th-best all-time an eighth among active players.

Not getting the same opportunities he had in years past, plus public misunderstandings with teammates, combined to make for a frustrating year for Gortat. He said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast midseason it was the worst year of his career. Gortat, though, did continue to make an impact setting screens for the Wizards and he rallied to finish relatively strong.

He had several solid outings in the playoffs, including his 16 points in Game 3 and his 12 rebounds in Game 5. The question is whether that is the last time we will see Gortat in a Wizards uniform.

Washington has played with the idea of trading Gortat for a while now. He popped up in rumors around the trade deadline in February, but remained on the roster. Now he has an expiring contract working in his favor, making it a bit more likely he gets dealt.

Gortat knows his future in Washington is uncertain, though he said following the season he would like to stay. It would not be surprising to him or anyone if he were traded this summer. If not, he's got one year left with the Wizards and could very well have his role decreased even more.

Potential to improve: Rim protection, midrange shooting, free throw percentage

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

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