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Cavs loss to Spurs shakes up NBA's Eastern Conference for Wizards, Celtics and others

Cavs loss to Spurs shakes up NBA's Eastern Conference for Wizards, Celtics and others

Usually it's a good thing for the Wizards and their fans when the Cavaliers lose, but Cleveland's 103-74 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night had quite the domino effect in the Eastern Conference standings.

By losing, the Cavs dropped from the No. 1 seed to the No. 2 seed, allowing the Boston Celtics to take over the top spot with eight games left for them to play and nine games for Cleveland. Why should the Wizards care? Well, if the playoffs began today the Wizards would be third in the East, meaning if they advanced to the second round they would likely face the defending-champion Cavaliers, instead of the Celtics.

[RELATED: Report: Heat holding onto slim hopes they can trade Bosh]

To get out of the East and reach the Finals, the Wizards - or any other team for that matter - would almost certainly have to get through Cleveland on the way. And no matter what the standings say, or how vulnerable the Cavaliers look right now, they remain the team to beat. They have LeBron James, the best player in basketball, two other stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and of course the championship pedigree. Without injuries in the Finals two years ago, they could be two-time defending champs at this point.

Just because the Cavs look shaky right now, doesn't mean they will be in a month when the second round of the playoffs takes place. There are still two weeks left in the regular season and the first round takes almost two weeks to decide. The Cavaliers have plenty of time.

If the Cavs remain in the second spot, it's an easy argument to make that the Wizards could prefer slipping to the fourth seed instead of staying in third. That way they could take their chances against the Celtics or Raptors in the second round rather than the Cavs. Both of those teams are good, but they aren't anything close to the Cavs when it comes to a playoff series.

The Wizards have nine games left themselves and are just a half-game up on the Raptors in third. A lot can happen from here on out, but the prospects of seeing the Cavs earlier than the Wizards need to is already a scary proposition.

[RELATED: Wizards on cusp of breaking U.S.'s longest division drought]

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

The Washington Wizards announced the passing of John Wall's mother, Frances Pulley on Friday. 

Wall's mother had been battling cancer before her passing. She was 58. 

In a statement on Twitter, the Wizards said, "Sending thoughts and love for John Wall and his family after the passing of his mother, Frances Pulley. She will forever be a part of our #DCFamily."

Zach Leonsis, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, also released a statement

"Thinking of @JohnWall and his family right now. Keeping you guys in our prayers. So terribly sorry for your loss and know that she will be remembered forever. #DCFamily

Wall's Kentucky coach, John Calipari also expressed his condolences for his former star: 

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Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

WASHINGTON -- It is not often you see a rookie find initial success in the NBA to the degree Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has, already with borderline All-Star numbers at the age of 20. And oftentimes, opponents are careful throwing out player comparisons for guys his age, wanting to see more before they anoint anyone.

Morant, though, is a different case and questions from media members at Wizards practice this week as the team gets set to face him for the first time naturally led to parallels to great players. On Thursday, Brooks brought up unprompted how much Morant reminds him of Russell Westbrook, his former player in Oklahoma City.

And on Friday, Bradley Beal invoked a teammate of his when breaking down what makes Morant so good.

"He loves to get up and down. He's really fast with the ball. It reminds you of John [Wall] in a lot of ways. He plays with his pace," Beal said.

Through 19 games this season, Morant is averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 42.2 percent from three on 2.2 attempts.

The threes have been surprising to most, as he shot a relatively modest 36.3 percent his final year in college at Murray State. But also surprising maybe just how lethal he has been at attacking the rim.

Sure, that was a big part of his game in college. But this is the NBA where athletes are much bigger and stronger. And he isn't the biggest guy either, weighing in at 175 pounds according to Basketball-Reference.

But despite lacking in size, he has shown an ability to finish through contact rarely seen from any player.

"I think he has a no-fear type of mentality. So, you have to respect his aggressiveness," Beal said. "He'll get respect from a lot of players in the league, a lot of refs in the league because of his aggressiveness and... with all the posters he has. So, he's an assassin. You gotta respect his game."

Beal likely won't draw the defensive assignment on Morant. That will probably go to Ish Smith and back-up point guard Chris Chiozza, who is with the team while Isaiah Thomas recovers from a left calf injury.

Beal knows it is going to be tough for the whole Wizards team to contain Morant. He said the trick will be trying to stay in front of him, though he knows that is easier said than done.

Really, Morant is such a unique player that the Wizards can only gameplan and prepare so much until they actually experience facing him for the first time.

"He's gonna be a handful," Beal said.

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