John Wall and Bradley Beal push around Raptors, help Wizards take 2-0 series lead

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The Wizards turned an early 10-point deficit into an 11-point halftime lead, and Bradley Beal had a message for the Raptors:

“They think that we’re some punks. They think that they can push around,” Beal said. “But we’re not rolling.”

Beal backed up his words in the fourth quarter, going out of his way to throw a shoulder into Kyle Lowry while they ran up court. The ref called a double technical, and Lowry held up his arms in protest.

“I didn’t do anything,” Lowry said. “I didn’t do anything.”

No, Lowry didn’t. But Washington – which started hostilities with Paul Pierce’s “it” comment – sure is doing something.

The Wizards – led by John Wall (26 points and 17 assists) and Beal (28 points) beat the Raptors, 117-106, Tuesday to take a 2-0 series lead. For the second straight year, Washington has begun the playoffs with consecutive road wins.

Now, the Raptors are on the defensive, where they really struggle.

After a slow start that included settling for too many mid-range jumpers, the Wizards moved – both the ball and themselves without it – better and pushed the pace to generate efficient offense. Wall (whose scoring and passing numbers are unmatched in a playoff game since Chris Paul in 2008) dictated everything, and Beal played the high-scoring sidekick.

Pierce (10 points) spaced the floor, especially in his minutes at power forward. Otto Porter (15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and nine rebounds) stepped up, and Marcin Gortat (16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks).

The Wizards look like a complete package.

The Raptors, on the other hand, were too often missing their most important piece: Lowry.

Toronto actually outscored Washington by nine points when the All-Star point guard played, but he was limited to just 26 minutes by foul trouble and a leg injury that knocked him out midway through the fourth quarter. It’s unclear whether Lowry will return for Game 3 Friday, and the injury was obviously just tough luck. But, in a tightly officiated game, Lowry was too sloppy with reaching and getting himself into foul trouble.

The Raptors just don’t have the margin of error to play without Lowry, because their defense is dismal. Once the Wizards stopped settling, they torched Toronto – and that’s not something than will be fixed by Friday. Only the Nets reached the playoffs with a worse defense than the Raptors.

Still, Toronto showed heart. After falling behind by 23 in the fourth quarter, the Raptors fought back through most of the final period.

But unlike Game 1, when Washington blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead before winning in overtime, the Wizards hung on in regulation. This was not passive end, though.

Washington has sent its message.

Report: Dennis Smith Jr. rejoins Mavericks after reconciling with Rick Carlisle

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Second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr. has been rumored to be on the trade block. The Dallas Mavericks guard hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with coach Rick Carlisle, and several teams have expressed interest in Smith. It appeared that Smith was all set to join another team as part of a swap as we approach the trade deadline.

A report on Sunday on the latest from Dallas has changed all that. According to The Athletic, Smith and Carlisle have had productive talks and the 21-year-old is set to rejoin the team for their game on Tuesday.

Via Twitter:

Smith hasn’t made the kind of leap the Mavericks were hoping for. Despite an offensive explosion across the league, he hasn’t seen his advanced numbers experience a significant bump. Smith’s flaws are that of a young player — shooting and decision-making — so any additional communication with coaches will be a good thing for him.

Who knows is he and Carlisle can ever heal the wound fully, but it felt too soon to press the eject button on a Top 10 pick like Smith for Mavs fans.

Lakers PG Lonzo Ball will miss 4-6 weeks with ankle sprain

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The Los Angeles Lakers have been dealt another injury loss.

Lakers PG Lonzo Ball, part of the young core the team is trying to develop around LeBron James, suffered an ankle sprain against the Houston Rockets on Saturday. The team release via their website said Ball would be re-evaluated but could mis 4-6 weeks.

Via Lakers:

Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, who was injured in last night’s game at Houston, underwent an MRI which revealed a Grade 3 left ankle sprain. Ball is expected to miss 4-6 weeks and updates will be provided as appropriate.

Ball had to be carried from the court after he collided with James Ennis during a play in the third quarter. Ball appeared to step on Ennis’ foot when the Rockets player tried to cut him off from the basket.

LA has had a rough go of it since LeBron injured his groin some 13 games ago. The Lakers have also been without Rajon Rondo, and have had a tough time winning games. The team, once thoroughly in the playoff race, has now dipped to ninth place in the West.

James and Rondo have been cleared for basketball activities, and they need their veteran leadership now more than ever heading into the All-Star break.

Watch the Bulls’ tribute video for Dwyane Wade

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Dwyane Wade is a Chicago native but the Miami Heat guard only played in the Windy City for a short amount of time. Wade was a member of the Chicago Bulls for 60 games in 2016-17 despite having signed a massive contract with the team in July of 2016.

Wade is now back where he belongs in Miami, and he’s been on a bit of a farewell tour across the NBA. As such, the Bulls felt it prudent to show a little tribute video for Wade before the final game he was to play at United Center.

Via Twitter:

How Bulls fans feel about Wade probably depends on who you ask, but a tribute video from the organization is a classy touch no matter what.

Wade has done jersey swaps with players around the league and in Chicago he got a special one: Benny the Bull.

‘One Piece’ fans are trying to get Steven Adams into All-Star Game

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There’s been a lot of clever NBA All-Star marketing over the years. Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum did a “Napoleon Dynamite”-themed video for his buddy Damian Lillard this season. The Toronto Raptors made a faux-vintage action figure ad for Kawhi Leonard.

Now it appears that anime website Crunchyroll is trying to get “One Piece” fans to vote for Oklahoma City Thunder big man Steven Adams.

Adams is a fan of anime, and has professed his admiration for the show “One Piece” before. Adams made mention about how he was watching the show instead of Kevin Durant‘s debut with the Golden State Warriors a while back. In turn, Crunchyroll — a streaming site — made a video trying to get people to vote for Adams in the NBA fan vote.

Via Twitter:

That’s pretty good, but will it be enough? We know the fan vote gets wild, especially with favorites who are sort of undeserving (Derrick Rose and Luka Doncic come to mind). Could a big push from the anime crowd help Adams, who is an excellent player but who has never been an All-Star, notch his first bid?