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John Wall scores playoff-best 32 as Wizards beat Hawks in Game 1

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WASHINGTON (AP) John Wall scored a playoff career-high 32 points and Markieff Morris added 21 in his NBA playoff debut as the Washington Wizards beat the Atlanta Hawks 114-107 Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round series.

Wall scored 15 points in the third quarter and finished with 14 assists in the best playoff performance of his young career. Morris, in his first taste of the postseason after 448 regular-season games, caught fire early in the second half to push Washington ahead, and the Wizards held on to take the series lead.

Bradley Beal had 22 points for the Wizards, who got enough from their top players to offset 25 points from Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder and 19 from Paul Millsap. Center Dwight Howard had 14 rebounds but just seven points for the Hawks, who dominated inside and on the boards early but couldn’t contain Wall, Beal and Morris.

Drawing a foul on a 3-pointer at the second-quarter buzzer, Morris scored eight consecutive points for the Wizards to get them back into the game. When Otto Porter‘s 3-pointer gave the Wizards a 53-52 lead, it was their first time ahead since the first quarter, and they were able to pull away.

TIP-INS

HAWKS: Schroder shot 8 of 16 and didn’t appear to be hampered by a sprained foot that coach Mike Budenholzer didn’t expect to cause him any limitations. … The Hawks’ 22 first-half free-throw attempts and 19 makes were their most in the first half of a playoff game since 2009 against Miami.

WIZARDS: Have won four consecutive games against the Hawks. … In addition to containing Howard, C Marcin Gortat had 14 points on 7 of 11 shooting and 10 rebounds.

M-V-P WALL

Twice when Wall stepped to the free-throw line, fans serenaded him with chants of “M-V-P.” Despite teammate Brandon Jennings‘ Players’ Tribune essay making the case for Wall as MVP, Washington’s four-time All-Star broke it down as Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden, with Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas and himself in the next tier.

“I won’t be finishing first,” Wall said. “I’ve still got some climbing to do.”

BENCH COMES UP BIG

Washington’s second unit struggled mightily early in the game but pitched in to maintain the lead early in the fourth quarter. Jennings finished with five assists and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 11 points.

FRESH PRINCE

Budenholzer elected to keep Taurean Prince in the starting lineup, and the rookie rewarded that trust with 14 points on 6 of 11 shooting.

“I think he’s played well,” Budenholzer said before the game. “He’s a competitive, active guy who’s got a lot of confidence.”

UP NEXT

The Hawks remain in Washington for practice with a couple of days before Game 2 at Verizon Center on Wednesday night.

More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Report: Kobe Bryant’s $6 million investment in sports drink now worth $200 million

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Kobe Bryant’s investment in BodyArmor is paying off – in a huge way.

Darren Rovell of ESPN:

Bryant made his first investment in the brand, for roughly 10 percent of the company, in March 2014, putting in a total of roughly $6 million over time. Based on the valuation of the Coca-Cola deal, his stake is now worth approximately $200 million, sources told ESPN.

Bryant earned about $330 million in his 20-year playing career. Add endorsements and this investment, and he could be approaching the level of wealth necessary to buy a major share of an NBA team (if that’s what he wants, which it doesn’t seem to be).

But we need greater context to understand Bryant’s acumen as an investor. If he diversified his portfolio, reporting on only the big winner could be extremely misleading. It’d be like saying Bryant made 11,719 shots. It’s impressive. But understanding how impressive requires knowing how many shots he attempted.

Ben Simmons laughs at talk of him shooting right-handed

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Ben Simmons rarely shoots jumpers, but when he does, they’re left-handed.

Yet, the 76ers point guard usually takes right-handed layups and even threw out a first pitched righty:

Considering Simmons’ struggles with his jumper, could he switch shooting hands?

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

If Simmons goes all righty this season, as some expect, we will adjust.

I’m not sure who expects Simmons to switch hands. But it sure doesn’t look like as if he’s among them.

Simmons:

There’s a case for Simmons to switch shooting hands. His 3-pointer especially is so substandard, experimenting could barely hurt.

But the switch will work only if Simmons believes in it, and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

C.J. McCollum on his latest Warriors comments: ‘I’m happy stop making me look like a scorn man sheesh’

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Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum explained Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors with an analogy about getting jumped by a gang with your brothers then joining that gang and forgetting about your brothers. McCollum called stars passing through Golden State to win big before joining another team – a la DeMarcus Cousins – “disgusting.”

Those comments have predictably generated plenty of discussion. But McCollum dislikes how those discussions are being framed.

McCollum:

Not everything McCollum says is newsworthy. Nobody is ethically obligated to amplify every comment he makes in a lengthy interview. Everywhere I saw, McCollum’s quote was given clear context.

It’s not newsworthy McCollum called the Warriors great. We all know they’re great. That’s why their existence is controversial.

And McCollum didn’t say just that he would never join Golden State. He called it “disgusting” then elaborated many other players would have too much pride for that track. The rhetoric was sharp and wide-reaching.

I found McCollum’s comments interesting, and I’m happy he shared them. I didn’t necessarily agree, but I appreciate his perspective. The NBA is more fun when more players reveal their differing points of view.

So kudos to McCollum – and Andre Iguodala.

Iguodala:

McCollum:

McCollum totally forgot about Iguodala – but not incorrectly. Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson look like future Hall of Famers. Maybe Cousins gets there, too. But Iguodala doesn’t deserve it. He made only one All-Star game and mostly topped out at good-starter level. His Finals MVP – which should have gone to LeBron James or, if you insist on awarding a winning player, Curry – shouldn’t push Iguodala over the top.

The best part of McCollum’s Twitter defense today:

McCollum has won seven playoff games – including a series against the Clippers and a single game over the Warriors in 2016. He could have easily brought those up.

But “Im trying Jennifer” is a far more enjoyable response.

Report: Heat, Udonis Haslem nearing deal for him to return for 16th season

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Does this give us a hint about what Dwyane Wade is thinking?

Probably not. What it means is that the Heat want some depth along the front line and, more importantly, a quality presence in the locker room. They want to bring back one of the icons of the franchise.

Udonis Haslem is reportedly nearing a contract with the Miami Heat, reports Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.

Haslem played in just 14 games for the Heat last season, and 72 total minutes. He just turned 38 and the Heat could use that roster spot to develop a young player. But this is about loyalty, and it’s a move that will play well in the locker room and with the fan base.

Wade also will like it. Whether it is an omen of his decision remains to be seen.