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Morning tip: Wizards' options expand with Gortat's return

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Morning tip: Wizards' options expand with Gortat's return

Being connected as a unit is more important than the size of the parts. If the Wizards have learned anything since losing so much size in the low post, as Marcin Gortat is expected to return for tonight's game against the Houston Rockets, it's to communicate.

Sounds like it should be simple, but when they're having defensive lapses like they displayed in a 24-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this season they can look like the Philadelphia 76ers.

"We miss his size, his presence in the post," Bradley Beal, after the Wizards beat the Miami Heat 114-103 on Monday, about not having Gortat for the last three games. "At time same time we did a great job adjusting without him."

That's because with Otto Porter and Jared Dudley manning the middle during key stretches, including in fourth quarters. The perimeter players naturally are better connected with each other since they have more familiarity.

Plus, the Wizards (9-10) can switch everything defensively which minimizes confusion. While they're undersized and can get outrebounded like they were 50-31 in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks because of a big like Dirk Nowitzki who can play with his back to the basket to force double-teams to free up shooters, they can succeed in disrupting others like the Heat who don't have that sort of versatility with the one-dimensional Hassan Whiteside in the middle (37-34).

"No matter if Otto's at the five, J. Dud's at the five of if I'm at the five, we just go out there and play with heart and make sure that we're all together and we do it on the defensive end," Beal said. "We let our offense take care of itself."

Porter had a career-high 11 rebounds against Dallas and then topped that in Miami with 14. Playing smaller allows the Wizards to get up and down the court quicker and in better position to get long rebounds as the pace is revved up. 

Still, they need Gortat. If they'd had him, they might've beaten Dallas, an intelligent team that always has good ball movement to exploit mismatches. 

But if the chemistry starts to suffer on the defensive end, coach Randy Wittman now knows he can go to a lineup of four guards and a wing and win in the NBA. His team has done it twice -- on the road -- against two of the best teams in the East in the Cleveland Cavaliers and Heat.

"Guys are doing a great job of rebounding," said John Wall, a point guard who has played closer to the basket, too, to compensate. "Our guards are kind of big guards and we're doing all the talking and all the things we need to to make things happen for us."

RELATED: Gary Neal pays off most when Wizards deploy small lineups

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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.