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Morning tip: Nene sets tone with physical play in middle


Morning tip: Nene sets tone with physical play in middle

HOUSTON -- Usually, Nene changes the tone of how the Wizards play defense, and his physicality eventually led to his ejection that also shut down Dwight Howard after he'd posted a 13-point first quarter. They're back to a smaller starting lineup while Nene comes off the bench behind center Marcin Gortat.

"He played him as good as anybody has," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said after a 123-122 win vs. the Rockets on Saturday. "They were battling. They were going at it all night."

Nene and Howard, who repeatedly got tangled as the 7-footers battled for position, were ejected with 8:08 left in the game for a skirmish. Howard had a first-half technical for clashing with Jared Dudley. Nene was assessed an additional technical for taunting after the fact. 

"Marcin is not going to be as physical as Nene is," point guard John Wall said. "But Marcin does a great job of finessing, rebounding the ball and protecting the paint where Nene is more of a physical presence that you might need at times. It's great when you can have both of them."

In 19 minutes, Nene was 4 of 4 shooting for 10 points. He only had two rebounds, but true to form when he's in the game he helps the Wizards do better on the boards. How? He keeps his man from getting the ball which is every bit as good. The Wizards had a 45-37 edge in rebounding and were plus-five with Nene on the court.

Howard only scored seven points after his initial burst, having trouble getting to his sweet spot on the low block for his jump hook. His shots came up a bit short over Nene's superior position defense and outstretched arms.

Gortat made all four of his shots, including a key layup with 2:45 left to trim the deficit to 116-114. He had 13 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks but the Wizards were minus-1 with him on the court.

He allowed Howard to get into his comfort zone and this is yet another advantage to having Nene play behind Gortat rather than starting with him which clogs the lane. They were 1-3 with them starting together.

No other big on the roster can do what he does and moving him at the trade deadline without someone in return to replace that exact skill set isn't an option worth considering.

MORE WIZARDS: Tearful Wittman: Late brother watched Wizards win from heaven

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

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.


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:


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.' 


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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.