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Wizards tip their cap, but won't bow down to LeBron James' greatness

Wizards tip their cap, but won't bow down to LeBron James' greatness

Whether LeBron James was playing with a bit of extra motivation stemming from comments made by John Wall and Bradley Beal or not, what he did at Capital One Arena on Friday night amounted to a masterpiece from a man who will go down as one of the greatest players in the history of basketball.

James used a steady pour of postup fadeaways and relentless drives to the rim to pile up 57 points against the Wizards, the second-most in his career. His highest scoring game ever was 61 points back in 2014, yet he shot for a higher percentage (67.6%) this time. The only thing that stopped him from scoring more was the game clock because the Wizards, despite exhausting all options, had no answers.

Some of the talk postgame stemmed from what Wall and Beal had said that afternoon on ESPN, essentially that they were the best team in the East and that the Cavaliers tanked at the end of last season to avoid them in the playoffs. That conversation was started by Beal back in May when he told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller that the Cavs "didn't want to see" them in the conference finals.

LeBron didn't go there afterwards, but perhaps he didn't need to. He had made his point and had the last laugh by doing and saying other things. On the Wizards' defensive strategy of mostly guarding him one-on-one with a revolving door of defenders, LeBron quipped: 

“I guess they figured at some point I’d miss. And I did. I missed 11 shots."

[RELATED: PIERCE SAYS LEBRON SHOULD JOIN WIZARDS]

LeBron hit a career-high 23 field goals on 34 attempts. He grabbed 11 rebounds, dished seven assists and added three steals and two blocks. According to Basketball Reference's game score, it was the best game of LeBron's career and the eighth-best game in the history of the stat, dating back to 1983-84. 

It was a complete performance, a thorough dismantling of a Wizards team that could only tip their caps in respect afterwards.

"We tried everything," Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. "Tonight, nothing that we did, and we did a lot of things, was going to work. The guy was on fire. That's what happens certain nights with great players.”

"I guess he must just love playing in D.C.," Wall said after referencing LeBron's shot to force overtime last February.

The reaction from the Wizards after getting bulldozed by LeBron also featured some defiance. Yeah, they did some talking. But they don't plan to stop and certainly aren't discouraged by what happened in their 130-122 loss.

The Wizards know they have to knock out the Cavaliers come playoff time to achieve their goals. And the only way to do that is to get another crack at them.

"Probably," Beal said when asked if LeBron was motivated by his words. "But at the end of the day I still stand on what I say and with my teammates... Hopefully down the line we'll see him again and hopefully in a seven-game series. I don't know if he can do that [every game]."

Markieff Morris replied "hell yeah" when asked if he could help stop LeBron better next time, as Morris had just returned from a six-week absence due to injury. 

The Wizards will get another chance to play the Cavaliers, of course. They play three more times in the regular season and as two of the best teams in the East, could very well meet in the playoffs.

When they do meet again, the Wizards may have more to say. That is their style, to be outwardly confident and then try to back it up. They just couldn't do that on Friday night.

[RELATED: PAUL PIERCE TALKS WIZARDS ON THE PODCAST]

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

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

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKING

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

PODCAST: WIZARDS MAKE A FREE AGENT SIGNING

The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

RELATED: DURANT MAKES HUGE DONATION TO PG COUNTY SCHOOLS

Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS