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Bradley Beal looked like max player in victory over Suns

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Bradley Beal looked like max player in victory over Suns

For about a month, max player Bradley Beal has been missing in action for the Wizards. Friday, with his team trailing for all but one minute, he sprung back into action like a superhero. A scorer, rebounder, playmaker and clutch at the foul line, Beal led them back from a 10-point deficit with every primary big body on the sideline injured and Marcin Gortat away on personal leave.

Beal, upset with himself after he underperformed for the Wizards (8-9) in a loss Wednesday to the L.A. Lakers, scored 24 of his season-high 34 points in the second half of a 109-106 win against the Phoenix Suns. 

"Just let you to know I call you Wolverine," Garrett Temple said to Beal about the X-Men character as the shooting guard limped out of the training room with knee that was sore after P.J. Tucker fell on him late in the fourth quarter. "Fastest healer in NBA history."

Beal was ferocious indeed. T.J. Warren gavie the Suns (8-12) an 88-78 lead with a three-pointer and Beal responded with a traditional three-point play attacking the rim and then a three-point shot. Beal's underhanded toss to a cutting Otto Porter produced another three-point play after his free throw to put the Wizards ahead 104-103 with 1:42 left and they'd never look back again. A bank shot from Beal on a drive gave them their largest lead of the game.

"I was not aggressive enough in the last couple games and I blame myself for that, especially the game the other night against L.A.," said Beal, who hasn't been himself since missing two weeks with a left shoulder contusion. "I have to be more of a threat. I can't just be passive. I can't just give up the ball that easy. I have to create, no matter if it's for me or for another teammate. It just keeps the defense off balance and makes them work for 24 seconds because once I get off the ball their job is over now. I just want to keep pressure on them as much as possible."

That's the Beal who wouldn't be denied by Kawhi Leonard, probably the NBA's best perimeter defender in a 102-99 win vs. the San Antonio Spurs. But that was a month ago in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business.

"When he's aggressive, it's just a domino effect on everybody else," said Ramon Sessions, who had 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting off the bench. "When he's scoring the ball like that it's tough to lose games."

Beal didn't come to terms with the Wizards on an extension before Nov. 2 which means they had to table discussions until the summer when he becomes a restricted free agent. Both sides have good reason. For Beal, the salary cap will go up by $20 million. The pot will be larger. For the Wizards, they'll actually have more wiggle room under the salary cap if they wait because they can exceed it to re-sign him as an exception after they secure the other roster spots. Plus, they hope Beal can remain healthy and show the ultra-aggressive, alpha dog streak they witnessed in this game more often.

[RELATED: Beal after big game: 'I needed to step up more']

"Whenever one of us is hot, it's not that we're going to take away from each other. Tonight was the night he was in a great rhythm," said point guard John Wall, who had a game-high nine assists. "There were opportunities and times I needed to find him and get him the shots that he needed to put him in the situation to be as aggressive as he was."

The Wizards didn't have Gortat, who is visiting his ill mother in Poland, Nene (calf), Drew Gooden (calf) and Kris Humphries (ankle). They made up for it with small lineups and still had a 41-35 rebounding edge, a season-high 50 points in the paint and 40 points from the bench. Then Beal, who made 12 of 23 shots, closed out like he did early in the season when the Wizards got off to a 3-1 start.

"That's who he can be when he puts his mind to it," coach Randy Wittman said. "It's that way with all our guys. When we're aggressive, good things happen."

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Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

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Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.