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John Wall, Bradley Beal play like NBA's best backcourt in sizzling 4th quarter for Wizards

John Wall, Bradley Beal play like NBA's best backcourt in sizzling 4th quarter for Wizards

ATLANTA -- The emphatic way in which the door was slammed on the Atlanta Hawks made Friday's closeout for John Wall and Bradley Beal that much sweeter. 

They celebrated a Game 6 victory on their floor at Verizon Center two years ago, when Paul Pierce's game-tying three-point shot was waved off. The Wizards almost squandered a 22-point lead until Wall scored 19 of his career-playoff-high 42 points in the fourth quarter to silence Phillips Arena. Beal had 31 points as the duo combine to shoot 27-for-42 from the field, or 64.2%.

"He carried us with his leadership as a player," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "We have a lot of good players who help win us games, but his leadership and Brad's leadership have been great for our young players. In this league, I couldn't ask for two better guys to lead our team."

Dennis Schroder played the best basketball of his career for the Hawks and had 26 points and 10 assists, but he ended up on the wrong end of a pivotal play with 8:27 left in the fourth quarter. After Beal's turnover, Wall chased him down for a block at the rim and then broke down multiple Hawks defenders off the dribble to deliver a bank shot through contact to flip the momentum.

What would follow after that was a pull-up jumper from Wall, an assist to Markieff Morris for a layup, three consecutive made jumpers from Wall and another layup and foul for the and-1. The Wizards were leading by double digits again and the building began to empty.

"Listen, they're bad boys. Both of them," center Marcin Gortat said of Wall and Beal. "They both bring different things to the table and when they're locked in and when they're playing team basketball, they are ridiculously good. That's enough. ... They're both the head of the snake."

[RELATED: Things get emotional after Chenier's last game in the booth]

In between that spurt to put the game away, Wall took time to jaw courtside with fans and celebrities such as Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Joines. He was turning the lights out for their season just as they did the Wizards' in 2015, when Wall was undercut and broke his hand and wrist here as they lost in six games, too. 

"I told him I was going to get 35 or more and we were going to win," Wall said.

After four consecutive games with foul trouble, Morris came through with 17 points and eight rebounds as he kept his hands to himself. His war of words with Paul Millsap ended with the Wizards' big man being respectful now that his first playoff experience is in the books. 

"Both teams gave it their all. I give credit to Atlanta," Morris said. "They played as well as possible."

But they didn't have an answer to stop the Wizards' dynamic backcourt. 

"Wall and Beal have been the best combo all year in the league in my opinion," Morris said. "Every time you need them to step up, they step up."

Next up is the Boston Celtics, a nemesis for various reasons. The Wizards went 2-2 vs. them in the regular season but Wall and Beal have a lot of uneasy history with them.

In January, Jae Crowder and Wall were fined for an altercation that got physical after lots of postgame chatter. Both teams won on their own home courts. Game 1 is Monday at TD Garden vs. the East's No. 1 seed.

"We can win on the road," Beal said of the Wizards' first victory away from Verizon Center in the playoffs. "We've shown that we can fight through adversity. We were up (22) points and they ended up cutting it back down to three. ... We've won in Boston before so it's going to be a challenge. But I think we're up for it."

[RELATED: Wizards vs. Celtics second round playoff series schedule]

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Mystics respond to Liz Cambage's comments on social media: 'LOL'

Mystics respond to Liz Cambage's comments on social media: 'LOL'

After Game 3 of the WNBA Semifinals, Las Vegas Ace Liz Cambage did not mince words about her competition in the paint. 

In a postgame interview with ESPN2, Cambage told Kim Adams that the Washington Mystics have “small forwards guarding me. If they can’t handle it, get in the weight room or get out of the post."

Clearly that did not sit well with the Mystics players. That was evident on social media Sunday night.

Myisha Hines-Allen and Natasha Cloud jumped on the floor to show their strength.

Cloud went one step further to support her teammate LaToya Sanders. As a 6-3 center/forward Sanders, has been the main defender on the 6-8 Cambage for the series.

And Cloud also had a passive-aggressive retweet that reference's Cambage's comments.  

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough also had a laugh.

Until this series, the Mystics had kept the unstoppable Cambage at bay. All three regular-season contests the Mystics kept her to 16 points or fewer. A majority of that credit should be given to Sanders. The first two games of the series saw that flip, but still, she was nowhere near her performance in Game 3 with 28 points on 12-for-15 shooting.

If the Mystics needed any more motivation, they got it from Cambage. That is on top of them striving to get back to the WNBA Finals after falling short this year, the franchise still without a WNBA Championship, having the 2019 MVP on the roster and - as Imani pointed out on Twitter - the Mystics still have a 2-1 series lead. 


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Go-Go GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu's empathy put to test at open tryouts

Go-Go GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu's empathy put to test at open tryouts

WASHINGTON -- Capital City Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu often says one of the primary reasons he retired as a player to join the front office ranks was to bring his perspective as a journeyman pro to the GM position. He played for 18 professional teams across the NBA, G-League and overseas and was cut from quite a few of them. He once lost his job five minutes before his contract was guaranteed.

Those memories of disappointment and resolve have stuck with him to this day and he is reminded of them every time he has to cut a player. That experience makes him acutely aware of how a player feels when delivered the news.

"There is a way you can do business with honesty and integrity," he said.

That approach helped lead to a year-over-year change in the way the Go-Go held their tryouts on Saturday. Last year, Mensah-Bonsu delivered roster moves by taking players aside during scrimmages. The guys in the open morning session who were good enough to earn an invite to the closed afternoon tryout were told to stop playing and wait around.

That process led to a good deal of confusion. Some players who didn't know their fate came up and asked Mensah-Bonsu personally. He called it "heartbreaking."

So, this year he switched it up. He brought the roughly 100 players out to the main court and had them sit in the stands as he read out the jersey numbers of those who made it.

There was still some uncertainty from players about who had advanced to the second tryout. Several players pulled their jerseys off to double-check their numbers in disbelief.

Still, it was better than last year. With this being only the second season for the Go-Go and the second for Mensah-Bonsu as GM, that's all they can really ask for.

"You know how good things are in the first year by how the second year goes," Mensah-Bonsu said. "This year, we kind of knew the ropes and what to expect and how to do things. This year, we kind of hit the ground running. It was more seamless than it was last year."

Last year was unique because they had to build the team from scratch as an expansion franchise. This offseason, they were looking for fewer players overall, without the need to complete an entire roster.

The open tryouts generally bring a handful of players to the afternoon session where they then choose two to four as training camp invites. Those who are brought in for training camp then compete for roster spots on the Go-Go, which would put them one step away from the NBA.

Mensah-Bonsu said the goal was to take five or six players from the morning group. They ended up with 15, as he was once again surprised by the talent pool offered by the D.C. area.

That afternoon session, though, is a different level of basketball. There are players with decorated college careers and some with NBA resumes. Some of the invitees included Josh Selby, who played at Kansas and has 38 career NBA games under his belt, Maurice Creek (George Washington), Trey Dickerson (Georgetown) and Frank Howard (Syracuse). 

Everyone involved is chasing the NBA dream, some giving it one final shot.

"I empathize with these guys. It's not easy," Go-Go coach Ryan Richman said. "Come here, stretch, learn some plays and then play games. It's not an easy job."

It's not easy for the Go-Go staff, either, to evaluate 100 players all within a few hours. It can be confusing in its own way. And for Mensah-Bonsu, there was a moment on Saturday that was particularly disorienting.

In attendance for the morning tryout was a player named Kojo Bonsu. That's a familiar name.

"He's got the exact same name as my brother, so I looked and made sure he wasn't out there. It was eerie to see that. It's rare you see somebody with the exact same name as you or a sibling. It was interesting," Mensah-Bonsu said.

It is already hard enough for Mensah-Bonsu to make cuts. At least he didn't have to cut his brother.