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Wizards change up to throttle Knicks: Five takeaways

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Wizards change up to throttle Knicks: Five takeaways

For weeks, the Wizards have wondered how they'd respond to playing from behind. Their history this season is to fold when down big, but they took another step in the right direction Saturday by erasing an 18-point deficit to thump the New York Knicks 99-89 and win the season series 2-1.

The last time they met at Verizon Center, Carmelo Anthony had his way with 37 points (still a season-high) as the Knicks handed the Wizards their first loss of the season 117-110. They switched up on him and held Anthony (20 points) in check. Kristaps Porzingis (20 points) led a fourth-quarter rally that fell short in front of Washington's 11th sellout of the season of 20,356 and it now has won four games in a row.

John Wall (24 points, 10 assists, 1 turnover) had his 42nd double-double of the season followed by Markieff Morris (17 points, three steals), Marcin Gortat (15 points, 11 rebounds), Otto Porter (15 points, six rebounds) and Bradley Beal (10 points).

The Wizards (34-35), who were coming off a sluggish finish in Thursday's 99-94 win at the Philadelphia 76ers when Wall had nine turnovers, weren't sharp to begin this one but made their move just before halftime to trim the deficit to 53-43.

  • The ball pressure in the second half was fantastic. The Wizards have a significant advantage with Wall and Beal vs. Jose Calderon (10 points) and Sasha Vujacic (0 points). But also with Garrett Temple (five points, seven rebounds) who frustrated Arron Afflalo (3 of 10), who was short on backdowns in the midpost. When Afflalo got around Temple for what he thought was a clean look on a pullup, Temple blocked it from behind. That came after Temple, who had a bad pass for a turnover, chased down Langston Galloway (nine points) for a block at the rim to send the crowd into a frenzy. From Wall to Beal to Gortat to Morris to Alan Anderson (two points).

  • Coach Randy Wittman put more size on Anthony with Morris, who is taller and longer at 6-10. Porter has trouble making him change direction because Anthony has a significant strength edge. It took Anthony 21 shots to get his points. Morris fought him for every inch of real estate, sometimes with no help. Anthony backed him down and Morris' contest forced the miss at the rim. He ran down to the other end in transition and threw down Wall's miss three-pointer on the fly for a thunderous dunk to force a timeout. The Wizards were up 74-63 after a 31-10 run to begin the third quarter. Porter took Porzingis who isn't as physical and that was a more favorable matchup.

  • Beal returned to the starting lineup after sitting out the last game with pelvic soreness. He only made 4 of 12 shots but he created off the dribble (six assists) to compensate.

  • The Knicks' transition defense was so bad it allowed the Wizards to get clean looks throughout the first quarter. Porter, however, couldn't connected on corner threes (0-for-3) and missed his first five shots overall. Anderson also missed his first three shots, all threes, that were open. When Porter made his first three, he didn't look at his feet before shooting. And then Porter had two open three-pointers in the fourth to seal it. He was 3-for-7 from distance and took 15 shots. If the looks are there and he has the confidence, they'll fall because his mechanics are good.

  • Marcus Thornton scored 18 points in the Wizards' game in Philadelphia, but they needed more size and defense to wear down Anthony. Thornton did not play because of the matchup -- and correctly so -- and Ramon Sessions (four points, 10 minutes) didn't play nearly as much, either.

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards unsure if Beal, Anderson will be available

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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.