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Morning tip: Wizards' 2nd unit remains step behind starters

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Morning tip: Wizards' 2nd unit remains step behind starters

The objective in the preseason isn't to win. It's for a team to get better and peak the the right time heading into the regular-season opener. Despite losing to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, the Wizards have reason to feel good about where they stand with the starting five. 

Their starters outclassed Miami's despite a 110-105 loss. But the second unit, which didn't have Nene, DeJuan Blair, Alan Anderson or even a fully fit Jared Dudley who was playing for the first time since back surgery in July, wasn't quite as sharp at either end of the floor.

If coach Randy Wittman was critical about how they tend to overdribble and not pass the ball quickly enough at times, he had to like what he saw from the first unit with one game left in the preseason Friday vs. the Toronto Raptors.

"I thought our first unit was really efficient," Wittman said. "I think we had nine first-quarter assists and then when we gave up the lead going into the half then I thought they came out in the third quarter and established (another lead)."

The starters, which didn't include Bradley Beal who rested and was replaced by Gary Neal instead, shot 25-for-54 for 46.2% accuracy. All five of them scored in double figures. On defense, they were sharp in rotations and help, particularly Marcin Gortat. 

They were able to build a 20-8 lead when John Wall exited for Ramon Sessions, and the backup helped pushed the advantage to 27-11. Then when Drew Gooden took over for Gortat, Garrett Temple for Neal, Kelly Oubre for Otto Porter and Dudley for Kris Humphries, they lost that momentum as the Heat recovered to lead 53-52 by halftime.

"In the second quarter we lost our pace, allowed them to get into a little bit of a rhythm. As I try to tell our guys you want this pace thing to be a thing for 48 minutes that eventually you’re going to hopefully wear the other team down," Wittman said. "We walked it up a couple times down on misses. For the most part I’m pretty satisfied, especially our first group tonight was real solid.”

A stepback jumper by Wall, over the 6-10 Chris Anderson, put the Wizards back on top 81-68 as the third quarter was winding down. Wall, Porter and Gortat didn't play at all in the fourth while free agents Josh Harrellson and Jaron Johnson eventually made their way onto the court.

Sessions and Neal combined to score 11 points in the fourth quarter but the offense looked disjointed not having that low-post presence to play off with Nene, who hasn't played since Oct. 11 because of a sore right calf. 

Defensively, unless Temple was on the floor, they couldn't stop anyone. They allowed Miami to shoot 57.1% in the fourth, with nine of its 38 points in that 12-minute span coming in transition.

What's clear is that half of the battle has been achieved after six preseason games. But the second part of the plan, the second unit, has to work out its kinks before Oct. 28 when the regular season opens at the Orlando Magic.

In Friday's finale vs. the Toronto Raptors, it could be safe to assume that Wittman will give them a lot of work and cut back on starters' minutes.

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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.