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Wall plays with heavy heart this time of year

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Wall plays with heavy heart this time of year

This time of year isn't just about the postseason for John Wall, but when the Wizards eliminated the Toronto Raptors by sweeping them it carried extra special meaning for the point guard. Sunday was his late father's birthday. Had John Wall Sr. still been alive, he would've been 67.

In his second consecutive playoff appearance, Wall has gotten the Wizards out of the first round in a series that most predicted he'd lose. Wall, who averaged league-leading 12.5 assists, played like the All-Star.

His mood wasn't the same. While Wall played inspired and carried the energy and confidence that's typical on the court, behind the scenes he was noticeably somber in the days leading up to Game 4.

"I was more quiet. More to myself," Wall said of his 14 points and 10 assists in that 125-94 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday. "Those type of days I just be to myself. It's a special day for me so when you get a win, it makes it more exciting, more fun, more to smile about. I went out to eat with my family. To win on my dad's birthday was fun."

Wall Sr., who had been released from prison, died of liver cancer at 52 just a month later when his son was 8.

Wall has been here before in the postseason with managing his emotions. Last year, he got out to a shaky start even though they beat the Chicago Bulls in five games. Coach Randy Wittman sent him an inspirational text message to believe in himself before Game 5 of a second-round series vs. the Indiana Pacers that they'd lose in six games, but Wall played his best basketball amid admitted bouts of self-doubt.

No such inspiration appears to be needed now while the Wizards wait to find out their second-round opponent, either the Brooklyn Nets or Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards could be off as many as nine days if the Nets-Hawks go seven games in their series.

"Just going through it last year and knowing what it takes to win, knowing that I can dictate the game but not just scoring, doing other things," Wall said of his lower-key demeanor. "When I play defense first it gets my offense going -- a lot. That's what I tried to do a lot in that series and it paid off.

"Now we know what this team can be capable of. Now we got to stay playing the right way, stay in the right mind-set. Everybody is locked in. Everybody is focused. We're anxious to play."

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2018 NBA All-Star Saturday night: TV and live stream info, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

2018 NBA All-Star Saturday night: TV and live stream info, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

The 2018 NBA All-Star Saturday Night is here with the three-point contest, dunk contest and skills competition set for Los Angeles.

Here is all you need to know: TV and live stream info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

2018 NBA ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Where: Staples Center
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: TNT
Online with no cable TV: fuboTV (try for free)

PODCAST: ALL-STAR WEEKEND PREVIEW, WIZARDS AT THE BREAK 

Skills competition

Participants: Lou Williams, Clippers; Jamal Murray, Nuggets; Al Horford, Celtics; Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets; Joel Embiid, Sixers; Buddy Hield, Kings; Lauri Markkanen, Bulls; Andre Drummond, Pistons

What to know: This year's crop has a fascinating mix of guards and big men and don't sleep on the seven-footers. Embiid in particular has a unique skillset for his size. Still, it's tough to beat the guards. Watch out for Dinwiddie, who is the best passer of the bunch.

RELATED: BETTING ODDS FOR DUNK CONTEST, THREE-POINT CONTEST

Three-point contest

Participants: Klay Thompson, Warriors; Eric Gordon, Rockets; Devin Booker, Suns; Paul George, Thunder; Wayne Ellington, Heat; Bradley Beal, Wizards; Kyle Lowry, Raptors; Tobias Harris, Clippers

What to know: Thompson and Gordon enter the contest as past champions, as Thompson won it in 2016 and Gordon took it home last year. Thompson has the best three-point percentage among the group and is the favorite, but watch out for Beal, a past runner-up, and George who has the second best percentage. Also, Booker is one of the game's best young players and has a very smooth stroke from three.

RELATED: WIZARDS/BULLETS HISTORY ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Dunk contest

Participants: Dennis Smith Jr.; Mavericks; Donovan Mitchell, Jazz; Larry Nance Jr., Cavaliers; Victor Oladipo, Pacers

What to know: This is all about the rookies, Smith and Mitchell, who most are predicting to win. Oladipo has been in the contest before, but didn't win. He's also the only All-Star of the bunch. Nance is the only guy who isn't a guard and his father won it back in 1984. It will be interesting to see if he does some sort of nod to his old man, now 34 years later.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

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Looking back at the most memorable Wizards/Bullets moments on All-Star Saturday Night

Looking back at the most memorable Wizards/Bullets moments on All-Star Saturday Night

With Bradley Beal set for the three-point contest at the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend, let's take a look back at some of the most memorable moments for Wizards and Bullets players on All-Star Saturday night.

The franchise can boast past winners of the three-point and dunk contest, but there have also been some crushing defeats.

PODCAST: ALL-STAR WEEKEND PREVIEW, WIZARDS AT THE BREAK 

2014 DUNK CONTEST: WALL STEALS THE SHOW

John Wall has accomplished a lot in his career and that includes a dunk contest title back in 2014, the only dunk contest won by a Wizards or Bullets player. Wall took home the crown amid a crowded field of participants, the last dunk contest that featured six players: Paul George, Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Ben McLemore and Terrence Ross. Ross was the defending champion. 

Wall dropped the mic with a dunk over former Wizards mascot 'G-Man.' After the dunk, he famously did the Nae Nae dance with George.

2014 THREE-POINT CONTEST: BEAL COMES IN SECOND

On Saturday night, Beal will do his best to avenge the loss he took in his first stab at the three-point contest. Beal fell just short in a stacked group that included former winners Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

The winner was Marco Belinelli, who needed a bonus round to finish it off. That was because Beal hit his final six shots in the last round to force an overtime round. It was one of the closest three-point contests ever.

RELATED: BEAL A HEAVY UNDERDOG IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

1996 THREE-POINT CONTEST: LEGLER WINS IT ALL

The Wizards do have one three-point contest winner, Tim Legler who captured the crown in 1996. Many may know Legler for his broadcasting career, but he was a very good shooter in 10 NBA seasons, four of which were in Washington. 

Legler beat out some of the best sharpshooters of the 90s including Dennis Scott, Steve Kerr, Glen Rice and Hubert Davis. Legler tried to defend his crown the following year, but lost out to Kerr.

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

2011 DUNK CONTEST: MCGEE WAS ROBBED

Wall was the only Wizards player to win the dunk contest, but an argument could be made that JaVale McGee should have won it back in 2011. That was the year Blake Griffin won the title by jumping over a car. Griffin jumped over the hood, which many said wasn't exactly the same as jumping over the highest point of the car. I, who have approximately an 11-inch vertical leap, thought it was a bunch of malarkey.

That's not why McGee was robbed, though. He was robbed because Serge Ibaka appeared to steal his dunk. Video surfaced ahead of the contest of McGee practicing a dunk where he did a windmill slam while grabbing a piece of paper from the net with his mouth. Ibaka then did a very similar dunk in the contest itself. McGee admitted in an interview during the contest that Ibaka did the same dunk, so he had to switch it up. Who knows what would have happened if McGee did it instead of Ibaka. McGee, however, still put on a show including one slam where he dunked two basketballs.

RELATED: 

2007 THREE-POINT CONTEST: ARENAS COMES UP SHORT

Gilbert Arenas had a tough run in the three-point contest, as he finished as the runner-up in back-to-back years, 2006 and 2007. He lost to Dirk Nowitzki in 2006 and Jason Kapono in 2007.

It was in 2007, though, that Arenas wore the Wizards' gold alternate jersey (they were awesome, don't let anyone tell you differently) and finished the final round shooting threes one-handed once he realized he had lost. Arenas was one of the best personalities in the NBA at the time and that was on full display.