WIZ­ARDS

Beal: ‘If we play like this we’re go­ing to get swept’

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DY­BAS

be­gan to give him trou­ble April 6 against New York. Porter ex­plained in Jan­uary what is key for his hip in or­der to have his back not be an is­sue:

“Mak­ing sure it’s feel­ing good, loose, it doesn’t lock up,” Porter said. “That locks up my back where I can’t move. I can deal with the hip thing. It’s not a prob­lem. It’s any­thing else. If some­thing hap­pened to my hip, it’s OK, know what it is. Do some one-legged squats to open it up a lit­tle bit and

I can play.”

Only Porter and Beal will set ca­reer-highs in min­utes played this season. Wall,

Mor­ris and Marcin Gor­tat have each en­dured larger work­loads in the past. It was easy for Bradley Beal and Porter to reach their max marks since each were fi­nally healthy for a season af­ter mul­ti­ple in­juries to start their ca­reers.

Brooks has stated mul­ti­ple times that he is against rest­ing play­ers just to give them a break. When ad­dress­ing the topic, Brooks was talk­ing about play­ers not dress­ing for a game as op­posed to a shave in min­utes late in the season.

He is also search­ing for the Jan­uary ver­sion of his team, the one that buzzed through its sched­ule and as­cended the Eastern Con­fer­ence stand­ings. The one that played suit­able de­fense.

Blend­ing those pref­er­ences leads to Brooks’ conundrum. Win­ning the next two games would make this edi­tion of the Wiz­ards the first to reach 50 wins since 1979. The play­ers, and Brooks, are aware. He’s even brought it up to the team as a fi­nal car­rot to hang in front of their face. Thoughts seem to com­pete in his head with the play­offs set for the com­ing week­end.

“You want to play well, you want to be healthy first and fore­most,” Brooks said. “But, you want to play well. I’ve been on teams that we did not fin­ish strong, but we won our first cou­ple games. I’ve been on the other way. We fin­ished strong and split at home. You just want to play well go­ing into the play­offs and you want to be pre­pared and give your­self the best chance to win in the play­offs. We’re for­tu­nate enough to have home­court and we want to take ad­van­tage of that.”

The play­off sched­ule should help Brooks’ abil­ity to pro­vide play­ers a break. Wash­ing­ton is not ex­pected to open the play­offs un­til Satur­day at home — maybe even Sun­day — and will re­ceive at least a day off in be­tween con­sec­u­tive home games. By the time the play­offs be­gin, al­most a month will have passed since that last hap­pened.

Though, be­fore that starts, warn­ings were sent out by the two heavy­weight voices in the Wash­ing­ton Wiz­ards’ locker room:

“We just got to re­al­ize if we play like this we’re go­ing to get swept,” Bradley Beal said. “Plain and simple. We just have to look our­selves in the mir­ror and fig­ure out what kind of team we want to be. [Do] we want to be a hot team go­ing into the play­off or [do] we want to be a com­pla­cent team that will be home early?”

“If we don’t play de­fense, we will not win a game,” Wall said.

That’s clear enough.

As Wash­ing­ton’s play­off po­si­tion is de­fined by those around it, Wiz­ards coach Scott Brooks has a main ques­tion re­main­ing in the fi­nal two games: Does he value rest over rhythm?

The Wiz­ards are locked into the No. 4 seed thanks to Toronto’s win in New York on Sun­day. Their likely first-round op­po­nent is the At­lanta Hawks, though Mil­wau­kee and In­di­ana re­main pos­si­ble op­po­si­tion.

What Wash­ing­ton does in its fi­nal two reg­u­lar-season games — Mon­day at Detroit and Wed­nes­day at pesky Mi­ami — will not in­flu­ence its play­off spot. The Pis­tons have been elim­i­nated from the play­offs. Mi­ami is on the edge of get­ting in, start­ing Sun­day in ninth be­cause Chicago owns the head-to-head season tiebreaker with the Heat. By Wed­nes­day, Mi­ami could be out of the play­offs or go­ing all-out to get in.

Which leaves the afore­men­tioned de­ci­sion for Brooks. Through­out the season, there has been grum­bling about the amount of min­utes played by Wash­ing­ton’s start­ing five. In John Wall’s case, the con­cern is overblown. His to­tal min­utes are in line with what he has played in the past, plus, the prac­tice work­load un­der Brooks has been greatly re­duced. The sched­ule was also softer over­all for every­one this season thanks to tweaks by the league.

Marki­eff Mor­ris sat out a game last week be­cause of a sore right an­kle. Otto Porter missed Satur­day’s game be­cause of back spasms. Porter’s back prob­lems are of­ten de­rived from his hip, which has both­ered him for sev­eral seasons. His back

Wall

Brooks

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