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Morning tip: Sheldon McClellan earns trust of Wizards' coaching staff

Morning tip: Sheldon McClellan earns trust of Wizards' coaching staff

The first time vs. the Chicago Bulls, Sheldon McClellan started out of necessity because the Wizards were without John Wall and Bradley Beal. It was far quicker than coach Scott Brooks anticipated, or even wanted, to play the rookie but now that he's earning rotation minutes the message has gotten through. 

McClellan has had a small but significant impact on the Wizards' last two wins. He's gotten the call off the bench instead of veteran Marcus Thornton and there doesn't appear to be a reason to go back. 

“I like what Sheldon has been able to do. He plays hard," Brooks said. "When you play hard it gives you a chance to stay on the court and make good things happen for your team. I think he does that. He has that play-hard gene that I like. It helps him. Last game I thought he had some big moments. He hit a couple big shots. He just didn’t rely on the jump shot. He went to the basket. He’s a talented player. I think he’s getting better as the season goes on.”

It was in a Nov. 16 loss at the Philadelphia 76ers when McClellan quickly slipped into Brooks' doghouse. The Wizards fell 109-102 and McClellan started with Beal out with a hamstring strain and Wall on a minutes restriction. He missed two open three-point shots badly and picked up a charging foul with the Wizards in striking distance. But that's not why McClellan didn't make an apperance in 16 of the next 17 games. In the one game he did play, it was one minute of mop-up duty. 

The Wizards were 2-8 after that loss to the Sixers, but McClellan learned his lesson from the "players' coach" in Brooks, who is far more stern than some recognize. He showed McClellan what he did wrong.

“It’s film and seeing how hard I play and how hard I run to my spots. Just the little things that help me stay on the court," McClellan said. "I remember one game in Philly coach told me I was playing so cool and I got backdoored. I didn’t play for like 10 games. Ever since then, now when I get on the court, I think about that game and I just try to compete as hard as I can to earn myself a couple more games.

“It was just my body language. The way I look sometimes. It’s something I’m still working on. I just want to look engaged at all times."

McClellan averaged 16.3 points per game as a senior at Miami. He got up his share of shots and never averaged more than 1.9 assists in college, including his first two seasons with Texas. 

"You go from college where you can make a lot of mistakes and still stay in a game, you know you’re not coming out," McClellan said. "I don’t have to hunt for shots anymore. They come. They don’t? You just make the right read."

The Wizards entered the fourth quarter vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves last week down 85-80. A 9-0 run helped them regain the lead as McClellan passed up shots to get Kelly Oubre a three-pointer and Jason Smith a mid-range jumper. In Sunday's win at the Milwaukee Bucks, it was a stepback jumper, a steal and a three-point play conversion to push the lead to 89-83 in the fourth. McClellan then took a charge from Jabari Parker that gave the Wizards an extra possession that led to Markieff Morris' jumper for an eight-point lead. 

As long as he keeps this up, Thornton, who hasn't played in either of the last two games, will find it tough getting back on the court. Thornton takes too many risks on defense and gets caught out of position on screen-action. He also requires taking shots to be effective, and that sometimes will mean less for Oubre and Smith.

McClellan's recent play can help bridge that gap to fortify an inconsistent second unit.  

"I love passing the ball. Just come down and making the right basketball play, making that extra pass from a good shot to a great shot. That’s what I’m doing," McClellan said. "Do the small things to stay on the court."

[RELATED: State of the Wizards: Aiming for a winning record]

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Otto Porter steps up as Wizards' third scorer in Game 5 win over Hawks

Otto Porter steps up as Wizards' third scorer in Game 5 win over Hawks

On Wednesday afternoon, before the Wizards and Hawks tipped off in Game 5 of their playoff series, Scott Brooks talked about the need for a third scorer outside of John Wall and Bradley Beal after four games where the star duo carried much of the load. Brooks got just that in a Game 5 103-99 victory, as Otto Porter filled the void with 17 points and did so, amazingly, on just four shot attempts.

Porter at his best this season was the most efficient player on the Wizards. He was fifth in the NBA in effective field goal percentage and all four of the guys ahead of him were big men. 

That version of Porter hasn't consistently shown up in months. Opposing defenses have adjusted and taken away his open threes and late in the year he dealt with back spasms.

Through four playoff games, Porter had reached double figures twice but in the other two games had 11 total points. He had yet to fully break out, but did so on Wednesday.

"I talked to him yestereday and texted him," guard John Wall said. "I told him just keep shooting, keep cutting to the basket, things will start falling for you. It was great to see him get to the line and knock down a couple threes."

[RELATED: Wall gets win on late father's birthday, birth of best friend's 1st child]

The Hawks tried to check Porter at the perimeter and bump him out of his comfort zone with physical contact. Porter didn't retreat, he attacked the basket, mostly on the fastbreak, and was rewarded with 10 free throw attempts, a new career-high. He sank nine of them, also a career best.

"Just trying to be agressive," Porter said. "Just trying to take advantage of my opportunities in transition."

Of Porter's three field goal makes, two of them were from three-point range. Porter did his work at the free throw line and in just about every other aspect of the game. He had five rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist. He also helped close out Paul Millsap on double teams to help out Markieff Morris. All of that in 31 minutes and in a game the Wizards pretty much needed to win to hopes of moving on realistic.

Porter is the type of player who can impact a game in a variety of ways. But getting more from him offensively went a long way to help the Wizards get a pivotal Game 5 victory. He was the first Wizards player outside of Wall or Beal to score 15 points or more since Morris did in Game 1.

Porter came through just when the Wizards needed him.

"That was super big for us," Morris said. "We can count on Otto every time. I wouldn't call it a step-up because that's what he's been doing."

[RELATED: Wall's cape makes strong case for wildest outfit of playoffs]

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Morning tip: Adjustments for Wizards that worked best in Game 5 vs. Hawks

Morning tip: Adjustments for Wizards that worked best in Game 5 vs. Hawks

The Hawks had made their share of adjustments to get the series even with the Wizards, but Scott Brooks came up with his share of tweaks for a 103-99 win in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.

Game 6 is in Atlanta on Friday, and there are only so many different wrinkles that they can throw at each other as each team has held serve on their home floor. 

A look at the key ones that have taken place:

-- Doubling Paul Millsap. For the first time the Wizards did it. They got results as John Wall got the strip and a foul on Millsap and Beal came over for a block with 1:36 left

-- Bradley Beal running the offense. There hadn't been much of it, but there was more when he shared the floor with Brandon Jennings.

-- Jennings taking advantage of Jose Calderon. He stayed in front of Calderon rather than gambling for steals and actually got one for a quick layup by moving his feet laterally and staying in front of the 35-year-old backup. 

[RELATED: VIDEO: Wall throws down huge dunk vs. Hawks in Game 5]

-- Marcin Gortat vs. Millsap. For the second time in a fourth quarter, the big did the job on the power forward, including in space. Millsap shot 2-for-9 in the pivotal fourth. Gortat had to face DeMarcus Cousins in a similar situation and the Wizards beat the Kings despite Cousins' 36 points. It took him 34 shots. While Millsap is an All-Star, he's not as big as Cousins or Karl-Anthony Towns who Gortat also defended in similar situations.

-- Markieff Morris briefly at the five. It didn't last long because of foul trouble but he can match up with Dwight Howard as long as there's help defense. When the Wizards fell down 34-27, they soon tied it with a 7-0 run and Morris appeared for the tail end of the spurt. Howard didn't create any damage in the matchup. Morris did pick up his third foul and had to go to the bench but Gortat had returned to the game by then. That foul on Howard came on help and not 1 vs. 1. If Morris can avoid foul trouble, this can be a matchup that bears fruit. In Game 1, Howard was caught defending Morris away from the rim and was faced up off the dribble and he had to be taken off the floor.   

-- Wing action between Beal and Otto Porter. The two best three-point shooters on the team only need a slither of space to get off a high-percentage look from deep. Porter got two of them to start the third quarter. Beal and Bojan Bogdanovic had some in the fourth that produced Gortat's only field goal as the defense was preoccupied with them off the ball and didn't recongize Gortat's slip to the rim on Wall's drive. 

-- Kelly Oubre's ball pressure. It was disruptive in the fourth on the wing as he was used there instead of on the ball with Schroder. Tim Hardaway, Taurean Prince and Kent Bazemore combined to shoot 3-for-18 from the arc. Oubre finding his way onto Schroder could be coming in Game 6 to slow down the hot-handed point guard who made 5 of 6 three-pointers.

[RELATED: Wall's cape makes strong case for wildest outfit of playoffs]