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Buzz surrounding Kevin Durant quickly fades, as do Wizards

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Buzz surrounding Kevin Durant quickly fades, as do Wizards

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The hoopla surrounding Kevin Durant and the Wizards in their second and final meeting of the season is non-existent, in stark contrast to what took place Nov. 10 when the Thunder visited D.C. 

Perhaps the NBA's most lethal scorer, Durant quietly dropped in a game-high 28 points in Monday's 114-98 win. The Wizards would trim a mostly double-digit deficit to 67-61 in the third quarter, allow it to grow back to 11 and cut it to 74-67 until an 8-0 run started by Durant's three-point play. Russell Westbrook posted is second triple-double in as many meetings with Washington with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

"Westbrook and Durant, they said, 'Hey, we aren't going to be shown up,'" said Wizards assistant coach Don Newman, who is filling in for the first of two games for Randy Wittman while he's away on leave for a death in the family. "And they showed us."

What Durant, a D.C. native who has been with this franchise since he turned pro in 2007, led it to an NBA Finals, won a league MVP award and multiple scoring titles, does in the offseason when he becomes an unrestricted free agent is anyone's guess. 

Despite what Oklahoma City has to offer outside of basketball compared to other bigger markets, the Thunder offer him a great chance to win even in the top-heavy Western Conference. 

Westbrook's deal expires in 2017. The same is true for Serge Ibaka (19 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks). With the salary cap growing from $70 million to a projected $90 million starting with the 2016-17 season and climbing again to about $108 million in 2017-18 because of the new TV contracts and rights fees commanded by the league, what's the rush for Durant anyway?

He could opt to stay in Oklahoma City by signing a one-year extension and wait for the greater money under the bigger cap number for a max contract in 2017 which will start this cycle all over again. That would leave the Wizards a big hole to fill in free agency this summer and then the question for them becomes do they continue to wait, signing short-term deals again on their end to keep the cap space available, or move on.

Durant hasn't said one way or another where he'll go, if anywhere, but he's too big of a game-changer to just pass on. His first shot of this game was an airball from 25 feet. Then he made his next seven shots in a row.

The Wizards (21-25) couldn't stop Westbrook on post-ups of John Wall. They couldn't get any rebounds. And yet they still were in position to do what they did in Houston two nights ago when they raced from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter to steal a 123-122 win from the Rockets.

The defensive issues they've continued to have returned, however, and they just couldn't stops.

"We got down early. They were offensive rebounding. We had no resistance defensively," Wizards guard Garrett Temple said. "They were scoring at will, especially in the first six minutes, eight minutes of the game. ... Overall it was not guarding, a broken record."

Thunder coach Billy Donovan expected a tougher game before it tipped off. And in a lot of ways it was compared to the 125-101 blowout they delivered at Verizon Center. The Wizards had a chance in the fourth quarter of this one.

"The one thing that stands out is they seem to be playing faster now than they were earlier in the year," Donovan said of the absence of Nene and Bradley Beal. "I don't think the game against them was a true assessment of who they are at that time because when you have two key players out like that that's very, very difficult."

Beal led the Wizards with 18 points off the bench and Nene wasn't very effective in 17 minutes (five points) on 2 of 6 shooting.

The Thunder were always a step quicker to a loose ball, a rebound or a defensive rotation. This team may have fallen short of an NBA championship but Chesapeake Energy Arena presents a championship atmosphere. If the core of this team remains in tact, prying away Durant will be a tough sell for any team. 

RELATED: Thunder batter Wizards inside 114-98: Five takeaways

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2018 NBA All-Star Saturday night: TV and live stream info, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

2018 NBA All-Star Saturday night: TV and live stream info, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

The 2018 NBA All-Star Saturday Night is here with the three-point contest, dunk contest and skills competition set for Los Angeles.

Here is all you need to know: TV and live stream info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

2018 NBA ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Where: Staples Center
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: TNT
Online with no cable TV: fuboTV (try for free)

PODCAST: ALL-STAR WEEKEND PREVIEW, WIZARDS AT THE BREAK 

Skills competition

Participants: Lou Williams, Clippers; Jamal Murray, Nuggets; Al Horford, Celtics; Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets; Joel Embiid, Sixers; Buddy Hield, Kings; Lauri Markkanen, Bulls; Andre Drummond, Pistons

What to know: This year's crop has a fascinating mix of guards and big men and don't sleep on the seven-footers. Embiid in particular has a unique skillset for his size. Still, it's tough to beat the guards. Watch out for Dinwiddie, who is the best passer of the bunch.

RELATED: BETTING ODDS FOR DUNK CONTEST, THREE-POINT CONTEST

Three-point contest

Participants: Klay Thompson, Warriors; Eric Gordon, Rockets; Devin Booker, Suns; Paul George, Thunder; Wayne Ellington, Heat; Bradley Beal, Wizards; Kyle Lowry, Raptors; Tobias Harris, Clippers

What to know: Thompson and Gordon enter the contest as past champions, as Thompson won it in 2016 and Gordon took it home last year. Thompson has the best three-point percentage among the group and is the favorite, but watch out for Beal, a past runner-up, and George who has the second best percentage. Also, Booker is one of the game's best young players and has a very smooth stroke from three.

RELATED: WIZARDS/BULLETS HISTORY ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Dunk contest

Participants: Dennis Smith Jr.; Mavericks; Donovan Mitchell, Jazz; Larry Nance Jr., Cavaliers; Victor Oladipo, Pacers

What to know: This is all about the rookies, Smith and Mitchell, who most are predicting to win. Oladipo has been in the contest before, but didn't win. He's also the only All-Star of the bunch. Nance is the only guy who isn't a guard and his father won it back in 1984. It will be interesting to see if he does some sort of nod to his old man, now 34 years later.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

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Looking back at the most memorable Wizards/Bullets moments on All-Star Saturday Night

Looking back at the most memorable Wizards/Bullets moments on All-Star Saturday Night

With Bradley Beal set for the three-point contest at the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend, let's take a look back at some of the most memorable moments for Wizards and Bullets players on All-Star Saturday night.

The franchise can boast past winners of the three-point and dunk contest, but there have also been some crushing defeats.

PODCAST: ALL-STAR WEEKEND PREVIEW, WIZARDS AT THE BREAK 

2014 DUNK CONTEST: WALL STEALS THE SHOW

John Wall has accomplished a lot in his career and that includes a dunk contest title back in 2014, the only dunk contest won by a Wizards or Bullets player. Wall took home the crown amid a crowded field of participants, the last dunk contest that featured six players: Paul George, Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Ben McLemore and Terrence Ross. Ross was the defending champion. 

Wall dropped the mic with a dunk over former Wizards mascot 'G-Man.' After the dunk, he famously did the Nae Nae dance with George.

2014 THREE-POINT CONTEST: BEAL COMES IN SECOND

On Saturday night, Beal will do his best to avenge the loss he took in his first stab at the three-point contest. Beal fell just short in a stacked group that included former winners Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

The winner was Marco Belinelli, who needed a bonus round to finish it off. That was because Beal hit his final six shots in the last round to force an overtime round. It was one of the closest three-point contests ever.

RELATED: BEAL A HEAVY UNDERDOG IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

1996 THREE-POINT CONTEST: LEGLER WINS IT ALL

The Wizards do have one three-point contest winner, Tim Legler who captured the crown in 1996. Many may know Legler for his broadcasting career, but he was a very good shooter in 10 NBA seasons, four of which were in Washington. 

Legler beat out some of the best sharpshooters of the 90s including Dennis Scott, Steve Kerr, Glen Rice and Hubert Davis. Legler tried to defend his crown the following year, but lost out to Kerr.

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

2011 DUNK CONTEST: MCGEE WAS ROBBED

Wall was the only Wizards player to win the dunk contest, but an argument could be made that JaVale McGee should have won it back in 2011. That was the year Blake Griffin won the title by jumping over a car. Griffin jumped over the hood, which many said wasn't exactly the same as jumping over the highest point of the car. I, who have approximately an 11-inch vertical leap, thought it was a bunch of malarkey.

That's not why McGee was robbed, though. He was robbed because Serge Ibaka appeared to steal his dunk. Video surfaced ahead of the contest of McGee practicing a dunk where he did a windmill slam while grabbing a piece of paper from the net with his mouth. Ibaka then did a very similar dunk in the contest itself. McGee admitted in an interview during the contest that Ibaka did the same dunk, so he had to switch it up. Who knows what would have happened if McGee did it instead of Ibaka. McGee, however, still put on a show including one slam where he dunked two basketballs.

RELATED: 

2007 THREE-POINT CONTEST: ARENAS COMES UP SHORT

Gilbert Arenas had a tough run in the three-point contest, as he finished as the runner-up in back-to-back years, 2006 and 2007. He lost to Dirk Nowitzki in 2006 and Jason Kapono in 2007.

It was in 2007, though, that Arenas wore the Wizards' gold alternate jersey (they were awesome, don't let anyone tell you differently) and finished the final round shooting threes one-handed once he realized he had lost. Arenas was one of the best personalities in the NBA at the time and that was on full display.