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Kyrie Irving's injury could end his season and impact Wizards' playoff push

Kyrie Irving's injury could end his season and impact Wizards' playoff push

The Wizards' win over the Nets three weeks ago may have been Kyrie Irving's last game of the 2019-20 season. 

Washington bottled Irving up for most of the night, and Brooklyn's star guard exited the game early after suffering a right knee injury. He missed all five games leading up to the All-Star break, and now it appears the Nets are facing the possibility that Irving's season is over, according to the New York Post's Brian Lewis

However, Irving's shoulder injury seems to be the cause of this new development, not the knee sprain he suffered in Washington. Per Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Irving's shoulder is still bothering him and the team will seek a second opinion before deciding how to approach the final 29 games of the season. 

Irving missed 26 games in a row this season while dealing with a shoulder impingement and has missed 33 of the Nets' 53 games to date. Brooklyn is 8-12 when Irving plays. 

With an increased likelihood Irving is out for the year, it creates a bit more intrigue to the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Here's a snapshot of the standings before games resume post-All-Star break.

7. Nets: 25-28 (--)
8. Magic: 24-31 (2 GB)
9. Wizards: 20-33 (5 GB)

The Wizards weren't expected to make any sort of playoff push at the beginning of the regular season, but they now find themselves in striking distance for one of the last two spots. Washington has a particularly light schedule coming out of the break and before they went on a quick hiatus, were playing some of their best basketball of the season.

Bradley Beal has a 12-game streak of 25-point performances and has increased his efficiency after suffering from cold shooting for most of the first half of the year. The Wizards also boast the third-best defense in the NBA since the trade deadline. 

If the goal is to avoid the Bucks in the first round, gunning for the seventh seed is the way to go. And with Irving out, the door might be wide open. 

It's hard to ignore the Nets' record with Irving. Spencer Dinwiddie has played spectacularly well leading the offense in Irving's absence. Caris LeVert, who struggled to find a rhythm with a shot creator and ball-dominant scorer like Irving on the floor, could flourish with extended time as a top-two option on offense. 

But Brooklyn's eyes were already on next season with Kevin Durant using this year to recover from his Achilles injury. If Kyrie indeed misses the rest of the season, will the Nets have an easier time gelling under a similar system to last season? Sure. Will it significantly lower their ceiling down the stretch? Absolutely. 

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Bradley Beal hits game-winning three to lift Wizards over Bucks in 2K simulation

Bradley Beal hits game-winning three to lift Wizards over Bucks in 2K simulation

In perhaps the most exciting 2K simulation yet, the Wizards were able to get their third straight win while getting revenge on the Bucks with a thrilling 80-79 win. 

Bradley Beal was the hero in this one, drilling a game-winning three with just 2.1 seconds left on the clock.

The Bucks, both real and virtual, might want to rethink how they guard Beal. He's torched them in every possible setting this season. He finished with 28 points and shot 12/28 from the field, scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter alone. Stop me if you've heard this song before. 

A game of runs

This game was all over the place, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. 

The Bucks started the game with an 8-0 lead, which was then followed by an 11-2 run by Washington. Then in the second, Milwaukee went on 12-2 run, only to be answered with a 7-0 run by the Wizards thanks to Troy Brown Jr. 

The Wizards led by four points at the end of the first half, but then the Bucks used a 15-6 run in the third to build a lead going into the final frame. 

The fourth quarter featured four lead changes in just eight minutes of play, with the Bucks leading by five with 1:20 left in the game. That was, of course, until the Wizards went on an 11-5 run to end the game. 

A back-and-forth contest in the way you'd least expect, but at least it made for some entertaining hoops. 

Wizards overcome Giannis

In consecutive 2K simulation against the Wizards, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been an absolute monster. 

On Friday night, the reigning MVP went off for 38 points and 14 rebounds and shot 16-for-21 from the floor. Once again, he was impossible to keep out of the paint and the Wizards' front line, like every other team in the NBA, didn't have much of an answer for him. 

Still, the Wizards were able to overcome such a performance this time, mostly thanks to Eric Bledsoe.

The Bucks point guard had a terrible shooting night, going 2-12 from the field for a measly seven points. He even had a chance to redeem himself at the final buzzer, but his potential game-winning shot rolled right off the rim as the final buzzer sounded. 

Other parting thoughts

Before Beal hit the game-winner, Jerome Robinson had the highlight of the night with a no-look pass to Thomas Bryant for a dunk. Since the 2K version of Scott Brooks swapped Robinson for Brown in the starting lineup, both players have played really well in their new roles. 

Brown had 12 points in 14 minutes, while Robinson had 13 of his own to go along with a few impressive dunks. 

Something interesting happened during the second quarter. The 2K broadcast crew consisting of Kevin Harlan, Greg Anthony and Chris Webber mentioned how there has always been a rift between Beal and teammate John Wall. Beal denied the idea in-game, which goes right along with how he's addressed the situation in real life. Just an interesting moment in the first half.

Bryant continues to be an exceptional shot-blocker in a video-game setting. He had several impressive swats against the Celtics earlier in the week, and he did so again Friday in Milwaukee. 

Now, winners of three straight, the 2K Wizards will have their work cut out for them Saturday as they'll play host to LeBron James and the Lakers at virtual Capital One Arena. 

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Coronavirus and staying in shape: How Steph Curry's trainer is helping NBA players

Coronavirus and staying in shape: How Steph Curry's trainer is helping NBA players

As the realities of coronavirus continue to settle in, many individuals are being forced to find creative ways to adjust to this new norm. 

With the NBA season suspended and social distancing in full effect, basketball players are being challenged with the task of staying in shape with access to limited spaces. 

Stephen Curry’s trainer of nine years, Brandon Payne, told NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh that he has had to close his doors, he continues to try to solve this problem by helping his NBA clients work out from home.

Haberstroh wrote that a majority of Payne’s NBA clients are younger and live in luxury apartment complexes or condo buildings, not in spacious homes in the suburbs. 

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One young NBA player sent him a video of his apartment complex’s fitness room. Not an option, Payne told him, strongly discouraging him from using that space due to concerns of infection. To try to compensate, Payne has been on the phone with players’ agents working to get his clients the athletic equipment they need during the layoff. At the top of the list are home-friendly TRX resistance bands and stationary bikes “where they’re able to get some hard cardio in without disturbing the people under them.”

“Even if you have a common area where you can get shots up, we’re learning that this thing can live on surfaces, sometimes days at a time depending on the type of surface,” Payne says. “You don’t know who’s been in there and who they’ve been around. It’s just very uncertain.”

NBA players, of course, aren't the only ones trying to stay fit. Alex Ovechkin told reporters on Thursday that he's working out at the gym at his house and trying to stay active, but without active competition it's hard. 

“You get used to being with the team, working out with the team all year and right now you are kind of by yourself and it is kind of hard to push yourself through that mode,” Ovechkin said, “Like you have to do that thing or a different thing. It is kind of hard. Somebody has to not push you, but to do all that stuff so he’s with me and sometimes I don’t want to do it but he says, ‘OK let’s go, we have to work out.’”

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