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Wizards Complete Sweep
by Kevin Sheehan
Apr 26, 2015 -- 9:16pm
ESPN 980

A few quick thoughts on the Wizards close-out 125-94 win over Toronto.

1.  Sizzling shooting.  Did they miss?  What an incredible shooting display.  55% from the floor and a ridiculous 15-26 from the 3-point line even though they missed their last 3.  Pierce went an incredible 14-24 from behind the arc in the series.  Gooden went 7-14 on 3's.  Ramon Sessions for pete's sake was 5-9 in the series on 3-pointers.  Gortat went 8-9 tonight....29-39 from the floor for the series....74.3%.

2.  John Wall's team.  If you're nothing more than a box score reader, you'd have no concept of how good John Wall was tonight.  His 14 points/10 assists don't come anywhere near telling the tale of how he set the tempo from the start.  He had just 5 shot attempts but was the best player on the floor.  Pierce, Beal, Gortat, and Gooden were all very good....Wall was the series MVP.

3.  Wittman shortened bench again.  Wittman went with an 8-man rotation for the 2nd straight game until the lead was insurmountable.  Gooden, Porter, and Sessions were used with no Seraphin in the meaningful portion of the game.   

4.  Wittman was the superior coach.  Randy Wittman had a defensive plan from the beginning of this series that worked throughout including tonight.  His decision to go small in key spots most notably in Game 1 was huge.  His team was totally energized for each game.  He added a new wrinkle tonight by trapping the ball out of timeouts when Toronto had the ball.  It caused two turnovers tonight. 

5.  Ernie Grunfeld deserves some credit.  Getting Pierce was a perfect post-season answer to losing Ariza.  The addition of Humphries paid off through mid-season and the trade deadline acquistion of Ramon Sessions has really paid off.  Sessions has defended well and is shooting it well too.



Wizards Nearing Sweep
by
Apr 25, 2015 -- 12:08am

11 thoughts from the Wizards Game 3 106-99 win over Toronto.

1.  Strange game.  After a red-hot flawless offensive start by both teams in the first quarter, the game turned into an ugly-at-times grind the rest of the way until a flurry of big shots by Porter & Pierce down the stretch.

2.  Pierce closes it out.  Pierce's 2nd quarter in Game 1 and his 4th quarter tonight are the two most memorable moments of this series.  His 11 pts tonight in the final quarter included 3 threes, the last of which was a true Buckhantz dagger to make it 105-99.  No matter how discombobulated he can appear to be at times (and he was tonight early), he's the ultimate killer-closer with the game on the line.

3.  Otto Porter is really feeling it.  Otto Porter gained a level of confidence in Game 3 that carried over into tonight.  He's a different guy the last two games.  His defense on DeRozan was very good.  I doubt Wittman will do it but he may want to think about starting Porter in Game 4 to prevent another quick scoring start for DeRozan.  His two threes in the 4th quarter were massive especially the three after Ross had tied the game at 88-88 with a 3-pointer.  If you watched him all season long, the fact that he took those threes let alone made them is major progress.  I stand by what I've said on the show about him.  He does a lot of things well, nothing great.  With that said, his defense in particular has been great in this series.  He's been a major plus and he's a big reason they're up 3-zip.

4.  Gooden's lift.  Down 9 late in the 1st quarter, Drew Gooden entered the game and made three 3-pointers over a 5-minute stretch lasting into the 2nd quarter and the Wizards took a 4-point lead.  He finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, and several hustle plays that can't be measured statistically.  He did all of that in just 18 minutes.  

5.  Rough in 3 areas.  First, the pace wasn't good for most of the 3rd quarter and some of the 4th.  The Wizards have to stay up-tempo or they will struggle offensively.  Second, 17 turnovers is too many especially when many of them are a result of bad decisions and a casual approach.  Third, Toronto's full-court pressure bothered the Wizards at the end of the game.  Surprised they didn't screen a little more to get somebody open or use Gortat as an inbounds pass outlet.

6.  Wall to Gortat.  18 of Marcin Gortat's 24 points were assisted by Wall.  I thought Gortat was almost too unselfish at times in the 4th quarter. He could've had another 6-8 pts if he didn't give up the ball.

7.  How many of you knew....that if you get fouled before the shot clock expires but score as part of a continuation play after the shot clock expires, that the basket counts?  I didn't know that.  When Gortat got fouled by DeRozan before the shot clock expired, I just figured the made shot, which clearly came after the clock expired, wouldn't count and the Wizards would keep the ball with a reset shot clock.

8.  DeRozan's night.  He started 8 for 10 with 20 in the first quarter....he went 3 for 19 the rest of the way.  Porter gets most of the credit for slowing him down.

9.  Wall's night.  Not as good as Game 2 but still exceptional.  He went for 19 points and 15 assists and consistently set his teammates up for easy shot attempts.  Unlike Game 2 though, he didn't shoot it as well from the perimeter and his five turnovers were more of the unforced variety.  Still, an elite point guard playoff performance.

10.  Block party.  The Wizards blocked 13 shots tonight.  Gortat had 4, Gooden and Beal 3 each.  There’s been a ton of talk over this past season about the lack of athletic “bigs” on the roster and that’s true to a certain extent.  However, the Wizards do have legit rim protectors in Nene, Gortat, and yes, Gooden who is a clever defender in the paint.   

11.  The series is over.  No team has ever come back from 3-zip down.  The Wizards will close it out with a sweep on Sunday.



Maryland-Georgetown.....Finally!
by Kevin Sheehan
Apr 22, 2015 -- 8:50pm
ESPN 980

Maryland vs. Georgetown is set for the next two years.  Finally.  They'll play on November 17th, 2015 at XFinity Center in College Park and at Verizon Center a year later.  Mark it down.  It's a top-3 sporting event on the annual local sports calendar.

They haven't played a scheduled regular season game since 1993.  The last one before that was in 1980.  Despite being the two clear-cut heavyweight college basketball programs in the area, Maryland and Georgetown have played just three times in the last 34 years.  What a shame.    

Why they haven't played is speculative.  Unless your last name is Thompson, Driesell, or Williams, then you probably don't know for sure.  The Cliffs Notes version of the story most subscribe to goes like this.  Lefty Driesell played most of the locals when Maryland was the behemoth program in the 1970's.  He beat all of them including Georgetown on a regular basis.  Then Georgetown got good, beat the Terps a few times, and decided they didn't need Maryland anymore. 

Most say that the true source of the iciness between the two programs started on a cold December night in 1979 at the DC Armory.  Prior to that night, Lefty's Terps were 5-1 head-to-head against Thompson's Hoyas.  The lone Georgetown win had come the year before when the Hoyas upset a ranked Maryland team 68-65. 

The December '79 game at the Armory was the last scheduled game between the two schools for 14 years.  The thought at the time was that they would figure out a way to keep the series going but Georgetown was entering the newly-formed Big East and was facing new scheduling challenges.  Still, Maryland had been in the ACC and had always found a way to include Georgetown as part of their slate.  

Georgetown was the ranked team the night of December 5, 1979.  Maryland would ultimately rise to #5 in the country later in the season but little was expected early that year.  The Terps played the game without preseason all-american center Buck Williams who was hurt. 

The game was contentious throughout but the moment that may have changed the future of Maryland vs. Georgetown came in the first half.  A technical foul for hanging on the rim was called on Georgetown center Ed Spriggs.  Thompson was upset and while arguing with referees, he and Lefty got into a heated exchange.  According to those who where there that night, Thompson cursed Lefty out.  The Hoyas won the game 83-71.  Thompson was in the midst of building a national pop-culture juggernaut and an eventual national champion.  Playing locals, even a local with national stature, wasn't part of his plan moving forward.  

Even though their regular season matchups were dead for years to come, the Terps and Hoyas would meet later that season in the 1980 Sweet 16.  The Terps were ranked 8th in the country and were the favored 2-seed.  The Hoyas were ranked 11th and were seeded 3rd.  The buildup for that game in Philadelphia was huge locally.  In fact, I'm not sure there's ever been a bigger local college game than that one.  Patrick Ewing's Hoyas faced Ralph Sampson's Virginia in 1982 but that wasn't a tournament game.  This one was.

Maryland had Buck Williams back for this game and both he and Albert King were all-americans.  Georgetown had Craig Shelton, John Duren, Eric Smith, and Sleepy Floyd.  Eight future NBA players played in that game.  King struggled mightily.  The Hoyas were tougher and better.  They won the game 74-68.

The series ended after that '79-'80 season.  There was talk among the school's AD's about a renewal in the late 80's but Thompson didn't want any part of it saying to the Washington Post in 1987, "I don’t remember giving two seconds of thought to playing Maryland. There are a lot of other things that I have to concern myself with.”

Somehow they renewed the rivalry for one game in 1993.  The details of how that came together have been debated but the Hoyas gave the Terps, who were coming off probation, a shot. 

The game was played on Georgetown's home floor in Landover but a home game it wasn't.  Eighty percent of the 15,000+ in attendance were wearing red and white. 

Gary Williams got his first signature win as Maryland's coach that day thanks to Duane Simpkins' runner with 2 seconds left in overtime.  It's been said that part of the deal was a return match at Cole Field House.  It never happened.  The '93 game as it turned out was a one-off aberration. 

Since the Maryland win in '93, there have been two unscheduled games but neither one of them was played anywhere near the DC area.  in 2001, Maryland beat Georgetown in Anaheim in the Sweet 16 en route to the Final 4.  Georgetown blew out the Terps in an early-season 2008 tournament in Orlando.

There's no telling if Maryland-Georgetown is back for good but it should be.  Mark Turgeon and JT3 don't carry the baggage of the past and seem to genuinely like each other.....at least for now. 

These two Maryland-Georgetown games will be high-intensity events.  The game in seven months will feature a top-5 Maryland against a top-15-20 Georgetown.  XFinity Center will be juiced up for the first Terps-Hoyas game in College Park in 42 years.  The following season will be a similar scene in Chinatown. 

Finally this rivalry will be played, not spoken.  If you want these two years to be the start of something much bigger, root for two memorable games....with no hurt feelings.



Wizards Up 2-Zip
by Kevin Sheehan
Apr 21, 2015 -- 11:52pm
ESPN 980

Thoughts from the Wizards Game 2 blowout win in Toronto.

1.  Pace was great.  When the Wizards play up-tempo they can be scary good.  Wall dictated the pace from the start and everybody followed.  Even when he was out of the game, Sessions kept pushing it.  This team won Game 1 walking it up the court but tonight is the way they should play.  The 2nd and 3rd quarters combined were perhaps the best stretch of basketball the Wizards have played this year.  71 pts combined in 2 qtrs courtesy of relentless defense, fast-break pressure offense, exceptional passing, and torrid shooting was fun to watch.

2.  John Wall was elite.  He played up-tempo from the start and put relentless pressure on the entire Toronto defense all night long.  26 pts and 17 assists is a great night statistically but it was so much more than the #s.  This was Wall playing at an ELITE NBA playoff level on both ends.  He put on a show in the 2nd & 3rd quarter and schooled the 6th man of the year Lou Williams.  The stretch where he blocked Williams' shot and then scored and got fouled on the other end after blowing right by Williams was electryfying.  Duane Casey got teed up and it ended up being a 4-point play.  Their pick & roll game works so much better when they play up-tempo and get into their sets quickly.  He's near unstoppable when he plays fast and keeps his dribble alive.  Simply put, it was the best playoff night of his young career.

3.  Another dominating night on the glass.  They outrebounded the Raptors 45-28 with 10 more offensive rebounds.  That's 29 offensive rebounds and a +30 total rebounding advantage in two games.  

4.  Defense was good again.  Don't let the Raptors shooting percentage (48.8%) mask the fact that the Wizards played solid defense again.  Toronto hit some contested shots tonight and got to the rim easily in the 4th when the Wizards relaxed a bit up 23.  The Wizards are doing a very good job doubling most pick & rolls with the Toronto scorers (DeRozan, Lowry, Williams, Patterson) and rotating behind it beautifully.  They are also continuing to trap in favorable trap areas eating up valuable shot-clock time and once again they did a great job cutting off the baseline forcing Toronto's guards to make contested shots or contested passes.  Wall's defense was once again noticeable especially on Lou Williams in the 3rd qtr.   

5.  Beal's scoring.  Beal was aggressive from the start and he didn't settle for jump shots.  20 points in the first half, 28 for the game.  He got in Lowry's head too.  This was a huge bounce-back performance after a bad Game 1.  Interestingly, when he misses, he misses badly.  He had two air balls and a bad miss on a corner 3.  He struggles as we know with his ball handling too but bottom line, he needs to be an aggressive volume shooter. 

6.  Never got rattled.  Down 12-2 early, they cut the lead to 5 at the end of the 1st qtr.  After a 10-nothing run cut the lead to 63-61, the Wizards answered with a 10-nothing run of their own.  Up 23, the Raptors scored 10 straight in two minutes to cut the lead to 13 with 6:30 left....the Wizards answered that one with a 7-zip run.

7.  Lowry is a mess right now.  He's not completely healthy and the Wizards are making him crazy.  He fouled out of Game 1 and got in foul trouble again tonight.  He let his emotions get to him and banged up his knee in the 2nd half.

8.  Otto Porter's best game.  This may not have been his best game statistically but it was his best game.  He looked more confident during the big run in the 3rd qtr then I've ever seen him.  He defended, rebounded, came up with loose balls, tipped balls out for extra possessions, and made shots.  He was 6 for 8 from the floor and the team was +17 with him on the floor.  The only criticism tonight, he went 1-4 from the line.

9.  Kevin Seraphin ready when called on.  He didn't play in the first half but came in when Gortat got in foul trouble and was ready.

10.  Ramon Sessions' quickness.  Sessions gives the Wizards a chance to play the same way when Wall rests....with good up-tempo pace.  He's starting to knock down shots too.

11.  Wittman had his team prepared for the start of this series.  His team was prepared for these two games especially on defense.  It's tough to criticize too much when he's 7-1 on the road in the playoffs the last two years.



Wizards-Raptors Game 1
by
Apr 19, 2015 -- 9:27am

Thoughts from the Wizards Game 1 OT win in Toronto.

1.  Paul Pierce isn’t done yet.  His 10 points in the 2nd quarter keyed a crucial 17-6 run that gave the Wizards a 4-point lead at halftime.  His scoring early in the 3rd helped extend the lead while his 3-pointer to start OT put a halt to the Toronto run that tied the game at the end of regulation.  Without him, they would have lost.  That's why they brought him here.

2.  Washington’s defense was outstanding throughout the game.  Toronto didn’t shoot the ball well but the Wizards played great defense.  Consider this.  The Wizards shot 39.4% for the game with Wall and Beal going a combined 11 for 41 yet they still won the game.  To overcome that required an exceptional defensive effort and a solid defensive plan.  They had both.

First, the defensive game plan was smart.  They doubled DeRozan and Williams at times and neither ever got comfortable in the game.  They trapped in favorable trap areas on the sideline and corners throughout the game.  They did a great job cutting off the baseline forcing Lowry, DeRozan, and Williams into help in the middle of the floor.  They closed out on shooters particularly well without ever leaving their feet something Toronto didn’t do especially against Pierce.  Porter in particular bothered DeRozan.  Even the shots DeRozan made were defended well.  Wall had a very good game defensively too.  DeRozan, Lowry, and Williams went a combined 12 for 46.

3.  Wittman’s Moves and Misses.  Randy Wittman and his staff had the Wizards prepared defensively as mentioned above and made a game-changing move in the 2nd qtr going small with Pierce at the 4-spot.  I also loved the inbounds play that freed up Wall for a layup in overtime that gave them a 91-84 lead.    With that said, I hated their last two shots of regulation.  At 82-79 after a replay reversal and an offensive rebound, they ran the clock down and got a horrible shot attempt from Beal.  Wittman’s decision to leave the ball in Wall’s hands and let him take a jump shot at the end of regulation hasn’t worked for two years running.

4.  They won without pace.  Wall wasn’t in push-tempo mode for most of the day.  They walked it up the floor for the majority.   When Wall did push tempo it was effective getting Pierce two open threes in transition. 

5.  Offensive rebounding/few turnovers.  The Wizards had 19 offensive rebounds and just 10 turnovers (3 of those on offensive fouls).  If they’re going to shoot poorly, extra possessions are a must. 

6.  Beal had a rough day.  His shooting (6-23) was bad but his defense in key spots was worse.  He completely lost Lew Williams on the 3-pointer that cut the lead to 77-75 and he fell to the ground in front of Vasquez’s game-tying 3.  I love Beal and think that if he stays healthy, he'll eventually develop into an elite 2-guard. 

However, his growth from good to great will depend on maturity.  Right now, he lacks the necessary urgency and attentiveness to be consistent.  He looked like he was daydreaming when he lost Williams on the late 3-pointer that cut it to 2.  On one key possession in the 4th quarter, he let the shot clock roll down to 4 seconds when he had to know he would be doubled because they had been doubling him most of the day but he appeared to forget what was coming and it resulted in a shot-clock violation.  With all of the above said, I liked that he stayed aggressive shooting the ball despite the results.  Toronto's defensive plan was focused on making it tough on Beal and that helped others.  They’re going to need him to play much better if they’re going to advance.

7.  Bench.  Porter, Seraphin, Gooden, and Sessions all had very good moments.  Porter’s defense and late floater.  Seraphin’s scoring.  Gooden’s rebounding and in particular his offensive rebounding.  Sessions’ three and late 2nd qtr bucket to extend the lead to 4 at the half were big.

8.  Minutes.  Wittman went with what was working in the moment and if it wasn't working, he changed.  Nene was a high-volume (12 pts, 13 rebounds) performer in just 21 minutes.  Gortat played most of the 4th but Nene started the OT.  Part of me wonders if Wittman did it because he knew Nene would win the jump-ball tip and they'd get the first possesssion.  Humphries didn't play at all.  Any questions about Seraphin's role were answered....17 minutes/10 points. 

9.  Last 25 seconds of regulation.  Nobody likes to see Wall hold the ball and take a jump shot at the end of a tied game.  If he’s going to settle for a jump shot, I’d like to see him get to his money-spot just right of the free throw line.  And then how ‘bout Porter/Ross almost tipping the ball in for Toronto at the buzzer?



Wizards in 6
by Kevin Sheehan
Apr 18, 2015 -- 12:24pm
ESPN 980

I like the Wizards in 6.  It’s a hopeful prediction, yes.  It’s also doable if the following happens.

1.  Wall plays fast.  John Wooden’s famous adage “be quick but don’t hurry” doesn’t apply here.  Wall is more fast than quick and fast is where he and the team excel.  Up-tempo is where he thrives and part of Wall’s up-tempo is at times out of control.  That out of control leads to crazy shot attempts at times and turnovers too but the Wall good-to-bad ratio when he’s up-tempo is 2.5 to 1.  I’ll take that because the alternative of walking the ball up court is a 2 to 1 ratio the wrong way.  And as far as that saying about the playoffs being a half court game, tell the Lakers of the 80’s that.  The Wizards are poor offensively in the half court.  They should avoid playing that way as much as possible.

2.  Beal averages 20+.  His shot attempts are something to watch in this series.  Of course shooting a solid percentage is big too but he can’t pass on open shots no matter how early in the possession it is.  He must be aggressive shooting the ball in this series.  I want 16+ shot attempts a game with at least 4+ three-point attempts per game.

3.  Limit the turnovers.   Too many turnovers in this series spell doom.  Toronto is going to score.  The Wizards can’t give up 12+ possessions without a shot attempt.  Even worse, turnovers against the Raptors will turn into scores on the other end.  Many of those scores being threes.

4.  Wittman figures things out.  Despite all you’ve heard or you will hear from so-called experts about this series, nobody really knows what Wizards lineups will work best.  Is going small (Gooden or Pierce at PF) to match small the more favorable matchup or is going big (Gortat & Nene) against small and pounding the Raptors on the glass the best way to go.  When Toronto goes Lowry, DeRozan, and Williams….do the Wizards match that with Sessions and Wall in the game at the same time?  How much does Porter play.  Does Pierce take the big shots late in games.  Lots of questions about the best way for them to go.  Bottom line, a lot of this will be figured out once it starts and Wittman needs to have a keen sense of what works for his team and each night might be different.  The answers right now are far from obvious.



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