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Morning tip: Wall, Beal work out kinks so both can thrive together

Morning tip: Wall, Beal work out kinks so both can thrive together

The book on John Wall and Bradley Beal has long been this: Too often they play better when separated and not when together on the court, allowing each of them to run the team on their own terms. The early returns this season suggest that's become a thing of the past.

Beal set a career-high with seven made three-pointers in Monday's 101-95 win over the Sacramento Kings at Verizon Center en route to a team-high 31 points. He added six rebounds and three assists. Wall had a terrible night that was made difficult by a sore leg which contributed to his 11 turnovers (eight in the first half) but he also had 19 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds to balance out that eyesore.

More and more, Wall and Beal are playing better together as they complement each other better in their fifth season together. 

"We realize that. It's a little bit of a maturity thing, growing up," said Beal, who also has scored 34 and a career-high of 42 since returning from a right hamstring strain Nov. 9 that kept him out three games. "It's a totally different system, too, different coaches, different players. We realize that we carry a majority of the load. On any given night, I can have it going. He can have it going. When we're both on the floor, it just opens up the floor, opens up opportunities for both of us. If one of us is out there, they're going to just load up on him or vice versa."

Beal had a slow start to the season but is averaging a career-high 20.1 points and his output is rising. Wall's offense hasn't suffered with career-high averages of 25.3 points and 38% shooting from three. 

What makes Beal's production so striking lately is that he played 76 minutes in the previous two games and never made a trip to the foul line. Monday, he logged 41 minutes in the overtime game and only made two trips. Those didn't come until the last three minutes of regulation in what had been a tightly called contest that featured 47 fouls and 52 foul shots.

In the win against Sacramento, Wall and Beal did something for each other that they'd yet to show consistently this season: They screened for one another. While that might not seem like a big deal, it is. 

The more a shooters like Beal partake in flex action, weakside screening for others before they get a screen themselves, improves the quality of their eventual looks. Defenses are required to make decisions on whether to switch or not to switch more often and are prone to make more mistakes. It also creates more mismatches. In his last five games, Beal is shooting 21-for-49 from three-point range, or 42.8%, and 50% overall from the field. 

Still, there are matters to work out. Wall took an impossible, contested fadeaway jumper at the end of the regulation as he ran the high pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat to Beal's side of the floor. Given Beal's hot hand, he probably should've been the first option and, to have better spacing, he was better-suited on the weakside of the floor. After watching the film with Wall on Tuesday, coach Scott Brooks agreed that it was a forced shot and not the best read by his point guard. 

Closing games with better efficiency is their next level as a duo. 

[RELATED: Wizards' game plan works on DeMarcus Cousins]

 

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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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