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John Wall has last word in battle with Knicks' Brandon Jennings

John Wall has last word in battle with Knicks' Brandon Jennings

The plan from Wizards coach Scott Brooks went almost perfectly. He was going to let John Wall play limited minutes in a back-to-back stretch for the first time and come out with two wins. He'll have to settle for 1-1, but his point guard closed out the New York Knicks on Thursday after they mounted a comeback with a 47-point fourth quarter. 

The Wizards (3-8) ended a three-game losing streak and he was able to shut up Brandon Jennings, too. 

"He had a major impact in the first half and I think he only had two points," Brooks said of Wall's 1-for-6 start that blossomed into 6-for-8 in the second half, 23 points and 11 assists. "There are a few players in the league that can impact the game with passing and defense and he is one of them. He did a good job defending, and he makes plays for his teammates and then he got hot. That is what great players do. They read the game, see what the game needs and he delivered."

Wall ran the pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat to perfection, leading to point-blank finishes at the rim. Having Bradley Beal, who played for the first time after a right hamstring injury kept him out three games, forced the defense to respect the jump pass to the corners. 

Jennings led a spirited effort late. He scored 15 of his 17 points in the fourth where the Knicks trimmed the deficit to single digits on several occasions in the final two minutes. 

Wall, who had a minutes restriction of 32, played 31 after playing 24 in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. He had to be reinserted by Brooks at 4:07 to stave off the rally.

Wall had a reverse layup and then drained a pull-up juimp shot in succession. He also made four free throws in a row. 

And what made it even sweeter was that Jennings, who taunted Wizards free agent Casper Ware in a preseason game, was given a dose of his own medicine. Wall clapped in his face just as he'd done Ware knowing Jennings couldn't do anything about it. 

"It was a little back-and-forth talking between both guys," Wall said of his banter with Jennings. "Brandon was kind of hot in the fourth quarter. So we had a little back-and-forth talk."

[RELATED: BRADLEY BEAL'S RETURN HELPS KEY WIZARDS WIN OVER KNICKS]

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Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Now that the dust has settled for the 2018-19 Wizards season, it's time to review the roster and hand out individual grades...

Who: Bradley Beal, shooting guard

2018-19 stats: 36.9 mpg, 25.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 5.0 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.7 tov, 47.5 FG%, 35.1 3P% (2.5/7.3), 54.0 eFG%, 80.8 FT% (4.4/5.5), 113 ortg, 114 drtg

Best game: 1/13 vs. Raptors - 43 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, 6-12 3PT

Grade: A+

Season review: One could argue that nobody deserves a higher grade in the Wizards organization for their 2018-19 season than Bradley Beal, who had by far the best individual year of any player on the team. He had high expectations coming into the season and exceeded them, taking the next step from an All-Star to a legitimate All-NBA candidate.

Beal also continued to represent the organization well in public. He spoke for the team after many difficult losses with poise and maturity. And he brought positive attention to the franchise for his charitable efforts, recently being named as a finalist for the league's community assist award.

Beal's on-court performance was a shining light amid a disastrous season overall for the team. He set career-highs in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and free throw attempts. He played in all 82 games for the second straight season and never complained despite leading the NBA in minutes.

The most impressive part of Beal's season may be how he responded when John Wall went down due to injury. Wall last played on Dec. 26 and in the next 47 games, Beal averaged 27.2 points, 6.0 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals. 

Beal's final numbers put him in elite company. He became the first 25-5-5 player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history. He was one of only six players to reach that mark this season, a list that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.

Even as the season was winding down and the Wizards were well out of playoff contention, Beal gave an honest and consistent effort. That stood out in a year in which some of his teammates did not play hard and were called out by head coach Scott Brooks and team leaders for doing so. 

Now Beal, of course, had many reasons to keep giving 100 percent. With the numbers he has put up, he could make All-NBA in late May and, if he does, will qualify for a supermax contract. That could mean tens of millions more on his next deal, if he chooses to sign back with the Wizards.

As Beal looks ahead to this summer and next season, another question is how much better he can become. He took a significant step from the All-Star year he had in 2017-18. What if he makes another, similar leap?

Beal upped his scoring average by three points year-over-year. Another jump like that could put him in the MVP conversation, depending on how the Wizards finish in the standings.

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Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal

Voting has officially begun for the season-long NBA Community Assist Award, and Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal is a finalist. 

Chosen by fans and an NBA executive panel, the award honors a player’s strong commitment to positively impacting his community through sustained efforts over the course of the season.

In December, Beal visited Ron Brown College Preparatory High school in D.C. to give away two pairs of shoes to every member of the JV and varsity basketball teams.

It didn't stop there. Beal took his role as a mentor to the next level by checking in with the kids multiple times a month to make sure they are on the right track in both athletics and their academic studies.

Later on in February, Beal invited 10 students from RBHS on a private tour of the National African-American History and Culture Museum.

The seven-year NBA veteran also made a point to donate game tickets to community groups and toys to the Salvation Army during the holiday season. 

Here's some key information about the voting process: 

  1. Voting begins: Wednesday, April 24th at 12:01 p.m.
  2. Voting ends: Sunday, May 5th at 11:59 p.m.
  3. How does voting work? Through the above date range, every tweet posted using both of the hashtags #BradleyBeal and #NBACommunityAssist counts as one vote.
  4. Retweets of tweets using the above hashtags also count as one vote

This all comes following another All-Star season that saw the 25-year-old finish with career-highs in points (25.6), rebounds (5.0), and assists (5.5). He played in all 82 regular-season games. 

The winning player will receive $25,000 to their charity of choice, a donation from the NBA and Kaiser Permanente.

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