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Morning tip: Bradley Beal doesn't have to take last shot because he creates for Wizards, too

Morning tip: Bradley Beal doesn't have to take last shot because he creates for Wizards, too

The last time Markieff Morris had a chance to win the game at the end for the Wizards, he had a wide-open three that hit the back of the rim in a loss at the Orlando Magic.

He has redeeemed himself. plenty of times since then, including clutch free throws in to hold off the Golden State Warriors and then what he did vs. the Portland Trail Blazers.

That miss in Orlando came in just the fifth game of the season, when the Wizards were a very different team (and without John Wall). Saturday, it was their 65th when Morris buried a pull-up jumper with 0.4 of a second left for a 125-124 overtime win.

Their weapons are multiplying with Otto Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic also capable in similar situations.

Morris' shot was all net. There was more time (6.8 seconds) to set up the final shot compared to Orlando when Morris missed (0.8 of a second).

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"It was a redeemer for him," said Bradley Beal, who caught the inbound pass off a curl and found Morris spotting up in the corner for thie assist.

"It was a great play drawn up. I knew they were keying on me."

The execution went perfectly, unlike in early-season losses at the Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs when the Wizards had chances to clinch road games but didn't. 

They either didn't make the shot or were forced to take a more difficult look because the play broke down on a poor route run by Beal or a poor screen set by Morris to free him to catch the ball. 

Porter, who was the inbounder and almost always is, found Beal with a crisp pass and they got the play underway without a hitch. That allowed Beal to survey all of his options as he got away from Allen Crabbe who trailed him but faced Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic helping to stop his drive to the rim. When Mo Harkless converged as well as he left Morris in the corner, that opened the door for the pass and the finish.

The Wizards (41-24) have jumped the Boston Celtics in the East standings and have drawn even closer to the Cleveland Cavaliers who lost Sunday. They're now just two games back of the No. 1 seed. 

"It's almost like we won a championship," Beal said of the atmosphere at Moda Center following the lastest win. "We were throwing water around the locker room, beating down lockers, it was electrifying. It was exciting."

While that might sound extreme, it's a steppingstone in the evolution under a young backcourt of Wall and Beal.

They didn't have a good track record of closing out games like this. But Wall hit a game-winner to beat the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 10.

It's not about Beal or Wall forcing the shot for the sake of saying they took the shot. It's about getting the best shot available provided the play execution is sound. Otherwise it becomes a broken play such as the off-balance heave from Porter vs. the Thunder that went awry.

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It wasn't that the Wizards weren't trying to get the ball to Beal because he's likely to draw the most defenders, he's good enough off the dribble to beat the coverage, he can finish through contact and has the play-making ability to set up a teammate if all else fails. But coach Scott Brooks cleared the strong side of the floor for Beal to exploit Portland's defense that was destined to suck in and help on the drive. Morris was the beneficiary.

"That just shows our will to not quit," said Morris, who was short on words after the 21-point comeback that ended in controversy because replays showed his left foot stepped out of bounds. "That's what we did."

Even if the Wizards were to lose tonight's game at the Minnesota Timberwolves to end a five-game road swing, they will have set a new standard. They haven't gone 4-1 on such a trip since 1973, but if they do win it will be the first time they went undefeated in five consecutive road games, according to the team's PR staff. 

 

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76ers' Ben Simmons diagnosed with partial dislocation of the left kneecap

76ers' Ben Simmons diagnosed with partial dislocation of the left kneecap

After exiting the 76ers-Wizards matchup early Wednesday night, Ben Simmons was diagnosed with subluxation of the left patella on Thursday.

Simmons left the game during the third quarter and did not return. The injury occurred after he grabbed an offensive rebound and dribbled to the corner to pass to Al Horford in the post. Following the play, he began flexing his left leg and left for the locker room. Simmons was seen walking gingerly in street clothes minutes later.  

Before leaving the game, Simmons recorded eight points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in 23 minutes.

Simmons’ diagnosis of a partially dislocated kneecap leaves him out indefinitely as he and the team consider treatment options. He has already been ruled out of Philadelphia’s game against the Orlando Magic on Friday. However, his MRI showed no ligament damage in the knee, which leaves him optimistic to return later in the playoffs.

His knee injury is not the only injury Simmons has had to overcome this season. He also missed the final eight games before the NBA’s hiatus with a nerve impingement in his lower back, but fully recovered before the restart began.

Playing without an All-Star player will be a challenge for Philadelphia, but the team has proven successful thus far in Orlando. The Sixers have gone 2-1 in the bubble and currently trail the Indiana Pacers by one game for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and are two games behind the Miami Heat for fourth. 

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Kevin Durant gives his NBA Finals predictions

Kevin Durant gives his NBA Finals predictions

While a number of teams are fighting to be the favorite heading into the NBA Playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers picked up a key endorsement from Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant.

When asked who he thought will win it all this year, Durant chose the Clippers defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals and upsetting the No. 1 seed Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. 

"They're just so deep," Durant said of the Clippers on “Play For Keeps” podcast. "They haven't had their whole team together at once for a long period of time yet, and that talent is just undeniable. When you have [Paul George] and Kawhi [Leonard] at the wings, that's what you need to win is wings. You got those two at the wings, arguably top three, top four at the wing position on one team."

So far in Orlando, the Clippers have gone 1-2 after defeating the New Orleans Pelicans and falling to the Lakers and Phoenix Suns. As of now, they hold the two-seed in the Western Conference playoff picture and would face the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. However, they are currently just a half a game ahead of the Denver Nuggets with five seeding games remaining.

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The Lakers clinched the one-seed last week and are up six games in the standings over their cross-town rivals.

ESPN’s playoff odds gave the Clippers a 10% chance of winning it all. They ranked third behind the Bucks with a 49.7% chance and the Lakers at 18.7%. 

Durant chose Los Angeles over his own team, the Brooklyn Nets, who are also in a good position to make the playoffs as the current seven-seed in the East Conference. However, the Nets are playing in Orlando without eight players including a number of starters like Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and Durant, who missed the entire regular season after tearing his Achilles during the 2019 NBA Finals.

If his team retains the seven-seed heading into the playoffs, they would likely face the Toronto Raptors, who Durant projected would fall to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals.

But regardless of seeding, Durant acknowledged it’s still anyone’s game.

“I hate doing that s---,” he said about predicting a winner. “You never know what could happen – you seen that with us last year.”

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