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|Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks knew John Wall would be back to his explosive Womens Kareem Hunt Jersey , elite self for the playoffs when the All-Star point guard was able to play 38 minutes in a regular-season loss at Cleveland.
It took Wall one additional outing to be absolutely certain he’ d be OK after coming back from surgery on his left knee, pointing to his 29-point, 12-assist effort against Boston five days later.
”I had a big game,” he said Monday, looking back at that victory from a couple of weeks ago. ”Kind of just started to see shots fall that I was falling short on the couple of games I had before that.”
As Wall prepares to lead the No. 8 seed Wizards into Game 5 against the No. 1 seed Raptors on Wednesday night in Toronto, it is as if he never was away for more than two months. As if he never needed that operation in the first place. As if he got a chance to ramp up for the postseason for more than merely four games.
And all of that outside chatter about whether Washington might just be better off without him, based on the team going 8-2 at the start of his absence in January and February, sure seems silly right about now. Especially after Wall carried Washington to a 106-98 victory in Game 4 on Sunday night by scoring eight of the host’s last 14 points and adding an assist – plus tight defense on DeMar DeRozan – after Bradley Beal fouled out with about five minutes left.
Did it while playing all 24 minutes in the second half, too. Plus, Wall revealed Monday that he twisted his right ankle down the stretch, although he declared himself fine.
”It’s always pulling teeth to try to get him off the court,” Brooks said. ”I like that. As a coach Blake Bortles Jersey Black , you want that.”
Now Washington will need to grab a victory on the road at least once to claim a series in which the home team has won every game so far.
”You put John Wall on this team for 82 games,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said, ”and I guarantee they wouldn’t be eighth.”
Instead, Wall appeared in only 41 games this season, missing all four that Washington played against Toronto. But he sure is looking good when the games count the most.
He is averaging 26.8 points, 13 assists and 4.8 rebounds in the series.
And here’ s an obscure, yet telling, stat offered up by the Wizards: Wall joined Magic Johnson as the only players with at least 27 points, 14 assists and six rebounds in two consecutive playoff games.
”It was just a matter of time before he got back to himself,” Wizards forward Markieff Morris said. ”He just needed to get some games under his belt. Basically, just get his feet under him, get his wind back Authentic Patrick Mahomes Jersey , and he would get back to how he was playing. Because he’s a competitor.”
That aspect of Wall’ s persona came out when he was trading barbs with Canadian rapper Drake during the series’ first two games in Toronto, when the Raptors were taking a 2-0 lead.
”I told him to be here for Game 3. He told me he was going to be here. Didn’t show up. He told me we were getting swept and he had the broom for us,” Wall said. ”I wanted him to know they weren’t going to sweep us.”
Associated Press writer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.
If any No. 1 seed should know not to overlook an opponent that was last into the playoffs, the Nashville Predators fit that bill.
After all, Nashville got the last invitation to the NHL postseason ball last season and then stuck around all the way into the middle of June, winning the Western Conference title before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
This time, the Predators were first in line for the postseason, winning their first Presidents’ Trophy with 117 points. They are in the position of overwhelming favorites as they welcome the Colorado Avalanche to Bridgestone Arena for Thursday night’s opener of the Western quarterfinals.
“There’s so many good teams, it doesn’t matter if you’re eighth or first,” Nashville captain Roman Josi said. “You saw what happened last year. For us, it’s not a different approach. We know the first round, it doesn’t matter who we are going to play Authentic Landon Collins Jersey , it’s going to be extremely hard.”
Some would say that Josi is just being politically correct when it comes to this series. Nashville (53-18-11) owns 10 consecutive wins over Colorado (43-30-9) dating to the last week of the 2015-16 season. It outscored the Avalanche 17-8 in four wins this season, including two last month in Denver during a stretch in which it ripped off 14 wins in 15 games.
Despite all of the Predators’ advantages — arguably the most depth in the NHL, the best 1-through-4 defense corps in the league and home ice — there is a window through which Colorado can climb to make this a series and perhaps pull the upset.
First things first: Avalanche goalie Jonathan Bernier must be the best player on the ice in at least one game. While that might seem laughable, since many fans remember him allowing four goals on 16 shots in Nashville’s Game 6 win over Anaheim last spring in the conference finals, Bernier actually has a good track record against the Predators.
In his career, Bernier is 9-4-0 in 14 starts with a 2.37 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. With Semyon Varlamov on the shelf for the season’s remainder, Bernier is the man in net, and he came up big in the regular-season finale, making 32 saves to beat St. Louis 5-2.
“I think if we play the way we played tonight, we have a good chance,” Bernier said. “If you want to get further Authentic Drew Brees Jersey , you have to beat the best team. We start with the best team.”
For the Avalanche to beat the best, they might want to do something about Filip Forsberg, who has shredded them in his career. In 20 games, Forsberg has 13 goals and 11 assists. That includes an overtime game-winner on March 4 in Denver and two goals in a return engagement March 16.
Secondly, Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon must play like it against Nashville’s top two defense pairings of Josi and Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban. MacKinnon ended a nine-game goalless streak against St. Louis. If he finds his scoring touch, Colorado’s chances increase.
Finally, the Avalanche must win at least one game in Bridgestone, where they’ll have to deal with arguably the loudest crowd in the league and perhaps even dodge the flying catfish.
“It’s the best team in the league this year and we know they have all the pressure,” Colorado right winger Mikko Rantanen said. “It’s going to be a huge test for us.”
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