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'Too much Kyrie' proves more than NBA All-Star worthy


'Too much Kyrie' proves more than NBA All-Star worthy

For the most part, the Wizards got what they wanted from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite the offensive outburst from LeBron James, the ball stopped moving as he settled into isolation play that eventually proved counterproductive.

The Wizards were able to tie the score at 95 early in the fourth quarter, but that's when Kyrie Irving took advantage of the constant switching on pick-and-rolls on the perimeter to score 19 of his season-high 32 points in the fourth quarter of a 121-115 victory. Although his counterpart John Wall had a double-double of 20 points and 12 assists, those totals were deceptive. Eight of those points came in the final minute with the outcome decided. 

"Too much Kyrie," said Garrett Temple, the Wizards' best one-on-one defender. "He was hitting some tough, tough shots."

Irving, who Wall has questioned being ahead of him in All-Star voting among fans despite playing only seven games, had the final word. Irving had been recovering from offseason knee surgery while Wall lit up the league in December by averaging better than 22 points and 11 assists to earn Player of the Month for the Eastern Conference.

"There's no beef or anything that's going on," said Irving, who shot 14 of 22, including 9 of 12 in the second half, and didn't play Dec. 1 when Wall scored a season-high 35 points. "The validation between me and him as players is what it is, and if that's dictated between the fans and the votes then that's what it is. I mean, All-Star voting has been that way for a few years now. It has nothing to do with the respect that we have for one another. He's a great player in this league and he's going to continue to be a great player for years to come."

Wall started in the All-Star Game last year over Irving, but he didn't make third-team All-NBA while Irving did.

The fact is they play the same position but are completely different players. Wall is a distributor who makes role players like Temple (21 points) and Gary Neal (13 points) better en route to his 19th game with double-digit assists. Irving only had three assists. When the shots are falling, Irving's style can be a hindrance while Wall isn't reliant on shooting to be effective. That wasn't the case here.

"He did a great job getting into the paint," Wall said. "They knew we were switching pick-and-rolls and stuff like that with every guard we had so whoever they wanted to attack in the pick-and-roll, they ran ran pick-and-rolls, we switch it and was able to get shots, get into the rhythm and get baskets also."

With the score tied at 95, Irving went on a personal 10-0 run: He beat Temple on the drive, got around Jared Dudley for an All-Star Game-like, acrobatic finish at the rim, drained a jump shot, made 2 of 3 free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt and then made a difficult finish over Nene in the paint.

"That was nuts. He's by far one of the best one-on-one players in our game," Cavs teammate J.R. Smith, who had 25 points, said. "To do what he's done and (be out) months and still be able to come out there and shake and bake like he's doing is remarkable. I don't think there is any question who the real All-Star is."

[RELATED: Redskins players turn out for Wizards-Cavaliers]

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Wizards have big questions to answer coming out of All-Star break

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Wizards have big questions to answer coming out of All-Star break

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller look ahead to the biggest questions the Wizards need to answer after the All-Star break. They also explain why Bradley Beal proved a lot in his first All-Star Game appearance.

They also unveiled a new segment involving guessing Wizards players based on their social media captions.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Biggest storylines for Wizards coming out of the All-Star break center around John Wall

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Biggest storylines for Wizards coming out of the All-Star break center around John Wall

The Wizards experienced a wild ride before the All-Star break, but came out of it on solid ground, fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 33-24 record. With 27 games still remaining until the postseason, here is a look at the biggest storylines moving forward...

Who will they sign?

The Wizards are close to signing a new player as they were left with open roster spots following the trade deadline when they dealt guard Sheldon Mac to Atlanta for a second round pick. The Wizards have keyed in on the backup point guard position and are likely to go in that direction with the move. But they could still be in the market for other players, possibly someone at the backup wing position, even if they sign a point guard.

The Wizards only have a few days left to make a move because they need to get their roster to 14 players within 14 days of the Mac trade on Feb. 8. Their next game is on Thursday against the Cavaliers, so they could have someone in the building in time to play in that game.


When will Wall return?

Wall had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Jan. 31 and was prescribed a recovery timeline of six-to-eight weeks, meaning he still has about another three weeks to go before a return is possible. It could be another five weeks before he's back on the court. That puts him in the range of missing another 10-to-17 games.

The Wizards have played nine games since he went down and have won seven of them, but they aren't even halfway there yet. They have a long way to go. Because it's Wall and his return will have a domino effect, this is the most important storyline to watch for the Wizards moving forward.

How will Wall fit back in?

Wall's return will of course be a big deal for the Wizards. They will be adding an All-Star back into their lineup with just weeks before the start of the playoffs. But at the moment, they have a good thing going and are playing much better than they were in the last week or two before he was shut down. That, of course, had a lot to do with Wall playing injured.

It will be interesting if the Wizards are still winning at anything close to their current rate when Wall comes back. That would be the ideal scenario because they could ease him back into the lineup and take their time getting him up to speed. But it will also create a complex situation for head coach Scott Brooks, who will need to make adjustments to his rotation. The alternative would be if the Wizards aren't playing well when Wall returns and the concern there would be the urge to rush him back in any capacity.


Tough schedule

The Wizards have fared quite well for themselves so far with a 33-24 record despite injuries to Wall, Markieff Morris and Otto Porter to varying degrees. But they have done so while enjoying the easiest schedule in the NBA, 30th out of 30 teams. It is about to get a lot tougher coming out of the All-Star break.

All in the next five weeks the Wizards will see the Cavs, Bucks, Warriors, Raptors, Pacers (twice), Timberwolves, Celtics, Spurs (twice) and the Nuggets. Of their next 17 games, 15 will be against teams currently in the playoff picture. They could be without Wall for all of them. That won't be easy.

Can Oubre get back on track?

While Wall has been out, just about everyone on the Wizards has stepped their games up to compensate. Though he still impacts games in other ways, Kelly Oubre, Jr. has been one exception on offense. In his last 11 games, Oubre has averaged 9.4 points and shot just 31.2 percent from the field and 23.2 percent from three. In his previous 46 games, he averaged 12.4 points while shooting 44.9 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from three.

That is a major difference and the Wizards certainly want to get the early-season version of Oubre back. At his best he is one of their most consistent scorers and an excellent three-point shooter. When he's contributing on both ends of the floor, the Wizards are tough to beat.