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How Denzel Valentine's antics turned John Wall into 'a monster' in Wizards win

How Denzel Valentine's antics turned John Wall into 'a monster' in Wizards win

If there is such a thing as a rookie mistake, Denzel Valentine made it Tuesday. He'd drained a three-pointer en route to his career-high 19 points for the Chicago Bulls, but he celebrated a little too much with too much time on the clock for John Wall's taste. The three-time All-Star offered some advice during the timeout that would come back to haunt the rookie.

"I play with a lot of emotion just like him. I understand where he's coming from," said Wall, who had game highs of 26 points and 14 assists, including the game-winning jumper, for the Wizards to get them over .500 for the first time since November 2015. "I just said, 'Don't celebrate this early.  You're a rookie. You haven't earned those stripes yet.' I told him, 'That's how you feel? You woke up a monster.' I just went on a scoring spree."

The Wizards trailed 92-85 with 7:38 left on Valentine's shot. The Bulls, who'd blown an 18-point lead, trailed 81-77 entering the fourth and appeared headed to an upset when Valentine's three forced a timeout.

Then Markieff Morris started a 10-0 run with consecutive three-pointers and Wall drained a fallaway jumper to cut the deficit to 93-92. Morris' putback of Wall's missed layup put the Wizards back on top, but after Robin Lopez's free throws Chicago was ahead 99-97. While Valentine only could watch, it was Wall's time to close out the game. 

The Bulls did their best to close off the paint, commtting mutiple help defenders to prevent Wall's dribble penetration for most of the game which had much to do with why he didn't attempt a shot in the first quarter.

So Wall began to take what the defense gave him. Out of a timeout, Wall found himself defended by Lopez on a switch while Rajon Rondo was mismatched in the low post with Marcin Gortat. The passing angle wasn't there for an entry pass so Wall got his rhythm on the bounce and pulled up for the tying shot with 47.4 seconds left over Lopez. He won it on the Wizards' bread-and-butter play -- the side pick-and-roll with Gortat.

Gortat screened Michael Carter-Williams which left Wall in space vs. the slow-footed Lopez who gave him the room to square up on the baseline with 5.9 seconds on the clock to give the Wizards (19-18) their 10th consecutive win at Verizon Center.

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"He's a winner," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "That is the bottom line. ... I thought he made the right play on shooting that. If they were going to jump out at him, the pass was the right play. It's not who makes the last shot. It's who makes the right play."

Valentine made 4 of 5 threes in the first half to spark Chicago to a 61-49 lead but they collectively shot 0-for-9 from deep in the third quarter. Valentine was 1-for-6 from three in the second half, his make coming on the celebration that pushed Wall to another level for the finish. 

"I still had a decent second half, but probably could have made a couple more plays down the stretch but credit to them," Valentine said. "They turned it up. ... John Wall did what he was supposed to do."

Wall's heroics rescued the Wizards -- again -- from a disaster playing against a team that didn't have its best player, Jimmy Butler (illness), its veteran shooting guard Dwyane Wade (scheduled rest) and best bench scoring big in Nikola Mirotic (illness). They had to erase a 12-point deficit on Sunday to beat the Milwaukee Bucks who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Wall logged 40 minutes and made 11 of 21 shots to go with six rebounds. When Wall is putting the ball on the floor and going to his right, which the Bulls allowed, he's at his best on the pull-ups. 

"They were back far so I couldn't hit my big, Marcin, rolling (to the rim)," Wall said of how the Bulls defended him. "I was able to get the ball in transition and knock down that shot."

The Wizards lead the season series 2-1 with Chicago, have won theirs 3-1 with Milwaukee, are 1-1 with the Indiana Pacers and hold 1-0 edges vs. the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets. 

To beat the Celtics in the second game of a back-to-back Wednesday at TD Garden, they'll likely need more than Wall. 

Valentine probably had enough of him.

"Nah," Wall said when asked if he had any parting words for his foe at the final buzzer. "Didn't have to."

[RELATED: John Wall, Scott Brooks weigh in on game-winning shot]

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NBA offseason grades: Thunder stood out in Northwest Division

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NBA offseason grades: Thunder stood out in Northwest Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Northwest Division...

Portland Trail Blazers, C+

2017-18 finish: 49-33, 1st round of playoffs
In: G Seth Curry, G Nik Stauskas, G Anfernee Simons, G Gary Trent, Jr.
Out: F Ed Davis, G Pat Connaughton, G Shabazz Napier

The Blazers are about as cash-strapped as anyone out there, so they had very little room to work with in free agency. They made some minor moves but nothing of real note. They had a solid draft, but picked Simons who is a long-term project. And they had to let some decent players go in free agency. The best thing that happened to the Blazers this summer was re-signing Jusuf Nurkic. Other than that, it was a pretty mediocre offseason for Portland.

Oklahoma City Thunder, A

2017-18 finish: 48-34, 1st round of playoffs
In: G Dennis Schroeder, C Nerlens Noel, G Hamidou Diallo
Out: F Carmelo Anthony

GM Sam Presti deserves high praise for another strong offseason. Most of the acclaim comes from the Thunder re-signing Paul George despite the assumption of many he would leave in free agency. But OKC also snagged Noel on a cheap deal, adding more athleticism and depth behind center Steven Adams. And they got Schroeder back in the deal for Anthony when they could have shed his salary for nothing in return. They also added three second round picks, including Diallo who looked good in the Summer League. It's hard to imagine the Thunder doing better than they did, given the financial resources they were working with.

Utah Jazz, B

2017-18 finish: 48-34, 2nd round of playoffs
In: G Grayson Allen, F Tyler Cavanaugh
Out: F Jonas Jerebko

The Jazz get most of their points from re-signing players like Dante Exum, Raul Neto and Derrick Favors. Though the price tag for Favors is a little high, they did a nice job of bringing the band back together, knowing they have an opportunity to get better this season simply by having Rudy Gobert stay healthy. The Allen pick has potential to work out very well for them. He looked good in the Summer League and should complement Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio well at the guard position. All in all, there was nothing flashy for the Jazz but they made some solid, smart decisions.

Minnesota Timberwolves, C

2017-18 finish: 47-35, 1st round of playoffs
In: F Anthony Tolliver, G Josh Okogie, F Keita Bates-Diop
Out: F Nemanja Bjelica

The Wolves have enough salary committed to where they could only do so much this summer. Tolliver is a nice pickup and should add shooting to their frontcourt. Bates-Diop gives them nice value as a second round pick. It would have been nice to see the Wolves change something via trade, but they have reason to believe they can get better if Karl-Anthony Towns continues to ascend and Andrew Wiggins reclaims his form as a scorer.

Denver Nuggets, B+

2017-18 finish: 46-36, missed playoffs
In: G Isaiah Thomas, F Michael Porter, Jr. 
Out: F Wilson Chandler, G Devin Harris

The Nuggets had a solid offseason just as they get ready to make a big leap forward as a franchise. They re-signed Nikola Jokic to a long-term deal, added Thomas on a low-risk contract and took a chance on Porter in the draft. They lost Chandler in a salary dump, but have the tools to win 50-plus games next season. Thomas could be a big difference maker if healthy and Porter gives them another building block for the future. If he can get past his back injury, he will fit in nicely with their young core.

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NBA offseason grades: LeBron James leaving changes everything in Central Division

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NBA offseason grades: LeBron James leaving changes everything in Central Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Central Division...

Cleveland Cavaliers, C

2017-18 finish: 50-32, lost in NBA Finals
In: G Collin Sexton, F Channing Frye, F Sam Dekker
Out: F LeBron James, F Jeff Green, G Jose Calderon

Technically, the Cavaliers had the worst offseason of any team in the NBA simply because they lost James in free agency, but overall they did quite nicely for themselves as they prepare to enter a new era as a franchise. Sexton seems like a solid first round pick and gives them a nice young piece to build around. They also signed All-Star Kevin Love to a contract extension. Cleveland should have enough to remain competitive, at least for the back-end of the playoffs, but they need to clear some salary to justify the step back they are about to take.

Indiana Pacers, B+

2017-18 finish: 48-34, 1st round of playoffs
In: G Tyreke Evans, G Aaron Holiday, F Doug McDermott, F Kyle O'Quinn
Out: G Lance Stephenson, F Glenn Robinson III, F Trevor Booker

There was nothing flashy about the Pacers' offseason, but they did a good job adding talent and depth. Evans on a one-year, $12 million deal is almost certain to work out well for them. McDermott should add shooting and O'Quinn is an underrated big man. And Holiday, their first round pick, is an intriguing young guard who could help on both ends of the floor. Indiana may not have enough to join the top teams in the conference, but they should be set up to recreate the success they had last year.

Milwaukee Bucks, B

2017-18 finish: 44-38, 1st round of playoffs
In: C Brook Lopez, F Ersan Ilyasova, G Pat Connaughton, G Donte DiVincenzo
Out: F Jabari Parker, G Jason Terry

The Bucks didn't have a whole lot to play with in terms of money in free agency or trade assets, and they let Parker go, so it wasn't a great summer for Milwaukee. They did, however make some smart moves in acquiring Lopez and Ilyasova for reasonable prices. The reason they got a 'B' has a lot to do with their decision to hire Mike Budenholzer as head coach. Beyond young guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo getting better, Budenholzer offers the Bucks their best chance to improve year-over-year.

Detroit Pistons, C+

2017-18 finish: 39-43, missed playoffs
In: G Kyhri Thomas, C Zaza Pachulia, F Glenn Robinson III, G Jose Calderon
Out: F Anthony Tolliver, F James Ennis III

It was another low-key offseason for the Pistons, who didn't have much money to spend in free agency and didn't make any major trades. Their biggest acquisition was through the draft with Thomas, a guy who offers intrigue on both ends of the floor. They get a decent grade, however, because of the move to hire Dwane Casey as head coach. If it weren't for that, their grade would be very low.

Chicago Bulls, B+

2017-18 finish: 27-55, missed playoffs
In: F Jabari Parker, F Wendell Carter, Jr., F Chandler Hutchison
Out: F Noah Vonleh

The Bulls had arguably one of the better offseasons in the East. They got Parker on a bargain and brought in two nice young players as first round picks in Carter and Hutchison. Carter was particularly impressive in the Summer League and could form a nice combination with Lauri Markkanen, who looks like a future All-Star. The Bulls might be one draft away from having the necessary pieces to start ascending into the next stage of their rebuild. They just keep chugging along with smart moves.

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MORE OFFSEASON GRADES

 

SOUTHEAST DIVISION: WIZARDS, HEAT, MAGIC, HORNETS, HAWKS

ATLANTIC DIVISION: SIXERS, CELTICS, RAPTORS, KNICKS, NETS

 

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