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'Huge IQ for the game': Wizards guard Andre Miller ends NBA's longest wait to reach 2nd round

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WASHINGTON - When the Washington Wizards split up by position for meetings before facing first-round playoff opponent Chicago, starting guards John Wall and Bradley Beal listened while veteran Andre Miller spoke.

After all, Wall and Beal were about to make their NBA post-season debuts; the 38-year-old Miller was getting set for his 10th playoff series. At the time, though, all three had something in common.

"Dre was telling us he's been in the playoffs before, multiple times, but he never got past the first round," said another Wizards guard, Garrett Temple, "so it was going to be a little nerve-wracking for him, too."

The Wizards eliminated the Bulls in five games, and as Washington now waits to find out whether it will face Indiana or Atlanta starting Monday in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Miller finally gets to enjoy a series victory after a well-travelled, 15-year career.

No one in league history played in as many regular-season games (1,184) or as many post-season games (57) as Miller did before being part of a team that advanced, according to STATS.

Miller, like the rest of the Wizards, wants more, of course.

"It's satisfying for me," Miller said, "but now I think we could get to the conference finals."

Taken by the Cavaliers with the eighth overall pick in the 1999 draft out of Utah, Miller is now with his sixth professional team. He made his playoff debut at age 27 in 2004 with the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets, who featured rookie Carmelo Anthony and second-year forward Nene and lost in five games to Kevin Garnett's Timberwolves.

Miller's Nuggets were gone from the playoffs after five games each of the next two seasons, too. That was followed by first-round exits with the 76ers in 2008 and 2009, and with the Trail Blazers in 2010 and 2011. He was a starter for all of those teams, then was a backup when he returned to the Nuggets and endured two more brief playoff appearances in 2012 and 2013.

After a shouting match with Nuggets coach Brian Shaw on New Year's Day this season — the first "Did Not Play, Coach's Decision" of Miller's career — the guard never made it into a game for Denver again. Miller, who ranks ninth in NBA career assists, was sent to Washington as part of a three-team trade involving Jan Vesely and Eric Maynor on Feb. 20.

And the Wizards, notably Wall and Beal, have benefited.

"John can go 100 miles an hour, and when Dre comes in there, he can calm the game down," Temple said. "And he's been pretty vocal before the games in the locker room, getting us ready, getting our minds right."

Washington coach Randy Wittman called Miller a "mentor" to younger players. Beal, 20, said Miller "has a huge IQ for the game."

"He's probably not the same player he was early in his career, scoring-wise, but he still can post up and score and look for his teammates and pass. In some games, he stays in the fourth quarter until the 3- or 4-minute mark, until he's tired," said Wall, 23. "Gives me more time to rest, so I enjoy it."

Against the Bulls, Miller averaged about 10 minutes of court time, and he made the most of it in Games 1 and 2: He scored a total of 18 points, making 8 of 12 shots, in a pair of road wins.

And after the Wizards closed out the Bulls on the road in Game 5, Miller sought out Wall.

"I just told John that I appreciate him and these guys, allowing me to be part of the team. I knew I was going to a team that had big guys and guards that could play and a decent bench. I just had to come in and fill my role," Miller said.

"I'm just enjoying the moment. ... Hopefully it can keep playing out."

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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