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Morning tip: Wall explains heated exchanges with Gortat

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Morning tip: Wall explains heated exchanges with Gortat

ATLANTA -- To the naked eye, the sideline spat between John Wall and Marcin Gortat going into the fourth quarter of Game 1 is something for the Wizards to be concerned about in this second-round series with the Atlanta Hawks. In reality, it's what has made the Wizards so much more determined, focused and even unified going into Game 2 today at Phillips Arena (TNT, 8 p.m. ET). 

This sequence that raised a few eyebrows came after the third quarter, when Al Horford zipped past Gortat on a drive to the basket. 

Wall, in a conversation with CSNwashington.com after Monday's practice, explained: "It was the play where Horford dribbled baseline and got the reverse lay up. He was like, 'Where my help at?' ... I'm like, 'Dog, it's tough in that situation because he caught it and went on the run quick. Send him back to the middle. Your help was in the middle. You let him go opposite of your help.' He was like, 'No, I didn't.' Stuff like that is going to happen."

Wall and Gortat bicker. A lot. But it shouldn't be mistaken for not liking each other. It dates to last season, when Gortat came less than a week before 2013-14 began in a trade from the Phoenix Suns. Gortat wants to be a bigger part of the offense. Wall wants him to toughen up. Gortat has complained about "individual" defense. Wall -- as well as Paul Pierce, Bradley Beal and coach Randy Wittman -- have said their issues during their slump was more about team defense and busted pick-and-roll coverages. 

The differences in opinion has led to interesting discussions at practice. Assistant coach Roy Rogers even could be seen sitting to talk with Gortat for more than an hour after a practice. Gortat, usually a lively, free-spirited personality, has gone into a shell and now speaks few words.

Sunday, he came on late to finish with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Wall found him with a lob with 15 seconds left for a 102-96 lead in that upset victory. Gortat shot 74.3% from the field in a first-round series with the Toronto Raptors mostly because of Wall's ability to distribute. The point guard averaged 12.5 in that series. He had 13 vs. Atlanta.

"We know we're a key to the team. I really want to see him do well," Wall said of Gortat, both of whom are signed through 2019. "I know how much he means to our team, he's setting great screens, he finishes a lot of plays, he's getting me a lot of assists. I try to make sure he's in the right situations and he tells me certain things he sees. Every time you're on the court, no game is going to be perfect. You're going to have your arguments here and there. We get through it and move on to the next play."

This is where Wittman's management of personalities comes in. He encourages his players to "police" each other. It's a glaring weakness that the Wizards had when they were a bad team, struggling to get to 30 wins in a season with a locker room loaded with dysfunction and bad attitudes. It was a weakness last season when the Wizards started 2-7. Wittman prefers to have a blow up, if necessary, and then move on. He does it with his players (and media) and doesn't hold grudges. He wants his players, especially Wall because he's the leader, to have the same thick skin with each other and not take it personal. 

"He let's us sit back and talk," Wall said of Wittman's influence. "When it gets to a certain point where he's like, 'Alright that's enough, let's get back to what we need to focus on.' As a team we do a good job of getting on each other and moving on to the next play. We get back out there, you would never know we had an argument."

[RELATED: Update on injury statuses of Wall and Beal]

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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.