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After getting snubbed, Bradley Beal proves All-Star status in win over Hornets

After getting snubbed, Bradley Beal proves All-Star status in win over Hornets

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards beat the Charlotte Hornets 121-107 on Thursday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Bradley Beal not making the All-Star team despite averaging 28.6 points shocked a lot of fans, members of the media and his teammates. So, you can imagine how he himself felt learning he would not be part of the annual showcase after two straight years getting the honor.

Given the timing of the announcement, within an hour before tip-off, how he responded was worth keeping an eye on. It could have seemingly gone in two different directions; either he would be dejected or motivated by it, if not angry at the snub.

Whether it was truly the latter or not, Beal played like he had something to prove against the Hornets. The two-time All-Star went off for 34 points to go along with nine assists and nine rebounds. He had 25 points in 19 minutes by halftime. His first nine shots came on free throws.

Unlike many of his best scoring nights this season, the Wizards pulled off a victory to make it even sweeter. They moved to 16-31 on the year and 3-3 in their last six games.

2. This was the Wizards' first home game since the passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in the tragic helicopter crash last weekend, giving the Wizards an opportunity to pay tribute in their own unique way.

The entire Wizards team wore jerseys pregame with Bryant on the back and his numbers. Half of the players wore No. 8 and half wore 24.

There was also a 24-second moment of silence and a video compilation of Wizards players, chairman Ted Leonsis, general manager Tommy Sheppard and coaches offering condolences and thoughts on Bryant's legacy. It was really moving and compelling stuff and assistant coach Kristi Toliver was particularly heartfelt. She said she plays the game of basketball because of Bryant.

"I take big shots and I win championships because of Kobe Bryant. No one has affected my life quite like you," she said.

There were Bryant jerseys all over Capital One Arena in the stands. Some fans wore his Lakers uniform, while a few others had his Lower Merion High School jersey on. Many were crying during the pregame ceremonies.

Once the game began, the Wizards and Hornets kept it going with eight- and 24-second violations. Fans chanted 'Kobe, Kobe' as the game began.

It was an emotional night at Capital One Arena.

3. Head coach Scott Brooks made a starting lineup change for this game by replacing Thomas Bryant with Isaac Bonga at the four-spot. There were a few reasons for why he did it.

One is to put Bryant back in the center role. He has been back-and-forth as a four and a five in recent weeks and the team's defensive has collectively has been so bad lately that something had to change.

But also, they want him back as a center because rookie Rui Hachimura is very close to returning. Brooks said Hachimura is expected to be back on Saturday as the Wizards host the Brooklyn Nets.

Getting Hachimura back will be a big deal for the Wizards, as he is one of their two or three best players. He has been out since Dec. 16 with a groin injury. 

4. Bryant adjusted quite well to going back to the center spot and especially going up against the Hornets' second unit. He had 21 points and eight rebounds on 9-for-11 shooting in 23 minutes.

Bryant can be a real factor when put in a specific offensive role as a screen-setter who cleans up around the rim. His defensive limitations are an issue and may always be a problem, but lately he has really been coming around on the offensive end. This game followed an 18-point, 11-rebound outing against the Bucks.

5. Back to Bonga. Though he was in the starting lineup tonight, his days in the rotation may be numbered.

Once Hachimura comes back, the Wizards will have their top two power forwards, him and Bertans. Bryant is playing more and more minutes as he works his way back to 100 percent from a foot injury. And Ian Mahinmi has earned the trust of the coaching staff all of a sudden.

Jordan McRae (ankle) and Moe Wagner (ankle) are also close. McRae could be back any day now and Wagner is making quick progress. Once they are back in the mix, there will only be so many minutes to go around.

What could get interesting, though, is what Brooks does once all his players are back given the Wizards are at their worst defensively when they are whole. He may need to shift some pieces around to get them playing like they did a few weeks ago on the defensive end, back when half their team was missing.

Perhaps Bonga can earn some playing time as a defensive specialist based on match-ups, but it sure seems like the minutes could dry up soon.

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Today in tournament history: Moe Wagner leads Michigan over Loyola Chicago in the 2018 Final Four

Today in tournament history: Moe Wagner leads Michigan over Loyola Chicago in the 2018 Final Four

Moe Wagner had an outstanding 2018 NCAA Tournament. But after advancing past the Elite Eight, he and the Michigan Wolverines faced their toughest test yet.

Sister Jean and the 11-seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.

Wagner threw a friendly jab at the underdog's 98-year-old school chaplain before the two programs squared off with a shot at the national championship on the line.

Sister Jean, who had more trash-talking experience than the Wolverines' starting five combined, wasn't going to go easy on the Ramblers' Final Four opponent.

Jean's comments must've shaken Michigan before tip-off.

After the ref tipped the ball off to start the first half, it was all Ramblers.

Loyola-Chicago tied up the ballgame at 15-apiece with 5:56 to go in the first half and controlled the game. 

Wagner carried the scoring load in the first half (11 points on 5-for-8 shooting, 1-for-2 from three), but his teammates went a combined 4-23 from the field.

The Ramblers coasted into the halftime break, leading 29-22, despite Wagner controlling the glass with 11 boards, giving him a first-half double-double.

The second half was a different story. 

Michigan cut the Ramblers lead to six with 11:19 to go in regulation and didn't look back.

As crunch time approached, Loyola had no answer for Wagner. 

The Wolverines center was in the zone, out-scoring the Ramblers 11-4 by himself during a four-minute stretch late in the second half. 

From that point on, with an eight-point lead and just 3:03 to go in regulation, Loyola's season was slowly slipping away.

John Beilein's squad would close out on a 10-6 run to take down the Ramblers.

Despite the loss, Sister Jean was all-class, taking the defeat like a champ, as Loyola-Chicago's improbable tourney run had come to an end.

Wagner finished the game with 24 points and 15 rebounds, and singlehandedly catapulted his squad to the national championship game.

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Jordan McRae predicted his own trade from the Wizards, sort of

Jordan McRae predicted his own trade from the Wizards, sort of

During his time in Washington, Jordan McRae was known for getting buckets and for his great sense of humor. However, nobody was aware of McRae's fortune-telling ability.

When a trade at the deadline sent McRae to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Shabazz Napier, McRae had joked about the possibility in the locker room just moments before he found out. 

"I'm in the locker room that day saying, 'Hey man, somebody isn't going to be here at the end of the day,'" McRae told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller on the latest episode of the Wizards Talk podcast. "Then Troy looks at me and says, 'It might be you.'

"Then I say, 'It might be me, I'm including myself.'"

He was right. 

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

"I practiced that day, it was a good practice," McRae said. "I actually stayed really long that day too. I happened to get treatment, I was talking to Sashi [Brown]."

"Then I was outside the building on the phone and someone else was calling me -- it was Tommy [Shepphard]." 

McRae was in the midst of having the best season of his career in Washington. Averaging 12.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists all marked career highs for him and assisted the Wizards in one of the top-scoring offenses in the NBA.  

"Denver was nice, it was cool, but it came to a point when the coach and GM said 'hey, this year you're not really going to play,'" McRae said. "At this stage of my career, and the season I'm having, I would just prefer to have a buyout.

"I'm having the best season I've had. I'm not willing to wait, and I'm a free agent."

All jokes aside, the McRae trade was a bit of a surprise due to his production, leadership and locker room presence. McRae, however, took the move in stride.

"I would have never thought I'd be on three teams in one year," McRae said. "But I chose Detroit because they're in a rebuilding phase and it's always good to go to a team that wants you."

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