John Wall’s triple-double leads Wizards past Bulls 117-96

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The week began with John Wall and the Washington Wizards on a five-game losing streak and facing a daunting margin just to reach the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

After a pair of victories by an average of 32 points over the two teams right ahead of them in the standings, the Wizards are in a far different place.

“Now we’re in it,” forward Jared Dudley said. “Before, if we lose these two, we would have been out of it. We win these two, now we’re in the thick of things.”

Finally playing as if their chance at returning to the postseason was on the line, which it very much is, the Wizards beat Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 117-96 behind Wall’s third triple-double of the season Wednesday night.

Wall, an All-Star point guard, produced 29 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, outplaying Rose, who returned after missing two games with a strained left groin and finished with 16 points and four assists.

“We just couldn’t really get a stop tonight, so they got us,” said Doug McDermott, who led the Bulls with 20 points as a reserve. “We’ve got to come out with urgency. We didn’t do that tonight. That’s on us.”

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Wall pointed his finger at the defensive side of the ball, saying that the Wizards spent plenty of time watching video of their disastrous recent road trip and focusing on how to improve the way they deal with opponents’ pick-and-rolls.

And, he thinks, the dividends could keep coming.

“We put ourselves in this situation. And if we just keep playing defense this way, we give ourselves a great chance to beat anybody. Simple as that,” Wall said. “We simplified our defense the last two games, it showed up and it’s been a lot better.”

In their previous outing, on Monday, the Wizards beat the visiting Detroit Pistons by 43 points. Detroit lost again Wednesday, 118-114 at Atlanta, meaning Washington is still 10th in the East but now sits only 1 1/2 games behind both the eighth-place Bulls and ninth-place Pistons.

Plus, there is this: The Wizards now own the tiebreakers against both of those teams they’re chasing, 2-1 over Chicago with no games remaining and 3-0 over Detroit with only one to play.

“We knew that the teams that we’re chasing were right here in front of us,” Dudley said. “We knew it was now or never.”

Wall received plenty of help, including 20 points from Bradley Beal and 15 from reserve Garrett Temple.

Chicago got Rose back, and Jimmy Butler scored 17 points in his second game in a row after missing three with an injury. But Joakim Noah is done for the season, Pau Gasol is still out, and Taj Gibson played only 8 minutes Wednesday because he aggravated his right hamstring.

“The challenge is pretty tough right now,” Rose said, “but that’s why we’re pros.”

ROSE’S RETURN

Rose said he expects to face Brooklyn on Thursday. “I wasn’t really trying to force anything,” he said about Wednesday’s return to action. “Just trying to get a groove, get a feel for the ball.” Coach Fred Hoiberg’s take: “I thought his burst looked good, for the most part. We wanted to play him short stints, no longer than 7-minute stints.”

TEMPLE CAN’T MISS

Temple’s points all came in the first half, when he shot 5 for 5 on 3s. “Just taking what the defense gave him,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. The rest of the Wizards’ bench was a combined 0 for 11 in the half.

HOME COOKIN’

The Wizards have won seven of their past eight games in Washington. “Maybe,” Temple joked, “we need to play the rest of our games at home.”

FLAGRANT?

Wall was whistled for a flagrant foul after chasing Butler down and blocking his shot. Wittman’s postgame reaction to the call? “I’m glad I didn’t play in this (era). Jiminy Christmas, if that was a flagrant. But times have changed.”

TIP-INS

Bulls: Have lost nine of 10 on the road. … Cameron Bairstow sat out with a back injury.

Wizards: C Marcin Gortat missed the first quarter because of a sore lower back after tweaking it in warmups. He wound up scoring nine points in 18 minutes. … F Alan Anderson sat out.

 

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

LeBron James finishes Rajon Rondo alley-oop to close out half (VIDEO)

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One of the reasons LeBron James leads the league in assists — other than the fact he can do anything on the basketball court he wants — is that he was the Lakers’ only quality playmaker to start the season. He had to set guys up.

Until Rajon Rondo returned recently from injury.

Now Rondo is setting up everyone — including LeBron for this monster alley-oop just before the half Tuesday night.

LeBron can still finish with the best of them.

Just don’t ask him about doing the dunk contest.

 

New Orleans spoils Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut in 115-104 Pelicans win

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday had 22 points and 10 assists, Brandon Ingram added 21 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut with a 115-104 victory over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Anthony finished with 10 points while Portland leading scorer and four-time All-Star Damian Lillard missed his first game of the season with back spasms.

Starting at forward and playing across the street from where he led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship over Kansas, Anthony scored the Blazers’ first points of the game on a 3-pointer from 26 feet out. However, he wound up missing 10 of 14 shots in what was the first game of his 17th NBA season.

Ingram looked spry in his return from right knee soreness that sidelined him four games, particularly on an authoritative, driving, one-handed dunk that got the crowd roaring in the opening quarter.

J.J. Redick hit 4 of 9 3-pointers and scored 14 points for New Orleans, which has won two straight and three of four. Kenrich Williams, who got the start at forward, filled the stat sheet with hustle plays, grabbing 14 rebounds to go with three steals and a blocked shot. He also scored eight points.

Holiday highlighted his night with a spinning dribble around Nassir Little for a driving dunk. In the second half, he scored on an unusual play in which he remained under his own basket, re-tying his shoes while his team advanced 4-on-5 into the offensive end. Holiday then came sprinting down court, took a handoff from Nicolo Melli near the 3-point line and exploded toward the rim for a layup.

C.J. McCollum led Portland with 22 points, while Hassan Whiteside added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Anthony wasted no time getting his first shot off. His miss from 20 feet came within the opening 30 seconds and was Portland’s first shot of the game. Anthony also took Portland’s second shot, hitting his first of two made 3s.

But when Anthony tried to rise for a two-handed dunk in the first half, he was met with resistance by a member of the NBA’s rookie class when eighth overall draft pick Jaxson Hayes rejected the attempt.

Hayes closed out the half with his third block, swatting away a driving floater by Anfernee Simons to keep Portland’s lead at 54-53.

New Orleans seized momentum in the third quarter, going up by 13 on a sequence that began when Melli hit a 3 and then got the ball right back in a largely vacated Portland back court after Nickeil Alexander-Walker dove to swipe the ball away from McCollum. Melli went straight in for a dunk that made it 83-70.

Portland responded with three quick 3s — two by Kent Bazemore — during a 9-2 run that trimmed New Orleans’ lead to six before Alexander-Walker, who had hit 11 3s in his previous two games, ended the period by banking in a straightaway 3 to make it 88-79.

Watch Carmelo Anthony’s first bucket as a Trail Blazer

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That Carmelo Anthony started the first game he played for Portland speaks to why they signed him in the first place — this team is so shorthanded along the front line that the guy they just signed got thrown into the fire.

Anthony responded with a solid level of play. His first bucket was a wing three where both defenders went to CJ McCollum and left ‘Melo wide open.

Anthony played 12 minutes in the first half and had 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, and three fouls. The team was looking to keep him at around 20 minutes for his first game back.

Portland led New Orleans 54-53 at the half.

How a single computer folder and dogged HR official exposed former Kings executive’s $13.4M embezzlement scheme

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Just how close did Jeff David come to getting away with embezzling $13.4 million from the Kings while working for them? He already secured a new job with the Heat and was in the process of moving from Sacramento to Miami.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

On this Monday, walking through the Davids’ new front door is a dizzying procession of cable guys, utility workers and movers. Amid all of this, Jeff receives a phone call from a former co-worker with the Kings. Her name is Stacy Wegzyn, and she works in HR. Jeff last remembers sitting in her office in Sacramento just months earlier, being told that the Kings were going to eliminate his position. After a few pleasantries, she gets down to business. She tells Jeff she’s been going through his old files, and in doing so she found one labeled “TurboTax” that references an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners.

“I was just curious what that is and if those are documents that should go to somebody else,” Wegzyn says.

It’s a seemingly innocuous inquiry from an HR lifer. But it’s one that will dictate the rest of Jeff David’s life. If he knows that — or senses it — he doesn’t let on.

“No, no, no,” Jeff responds. “That was a … man, this is taking me back. Maybe 2015?”

Wegzyn presses on. She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn’t around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff.

If you like the NBA or true crime – let alone both – I HIGHLY recommend reading Arnovitz’s full piece. It’s riveting!