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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: Jon Leuer expected to return to Pistons by start of season

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Pistons big Jon Leuer underwent meniscus surgery, leaving plenty of doubt about his availability for next season.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

After losing Anthony Tolliver in free agency (to the Timberwolves), Detroit needs Leuer as a stretch big off the bench. Unless Henry Ellenson is ready for rotation minutes, which…

If Leuer isn’t quite ready for the start of the season, Stanley Johnson could play small-ball four, but that weakens wing depth.

The Pistons’ best hope is Leuer getting healthy on schedule.

John Oliver roasts Dwight Howard in monologue on trade (video)

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Mocking Dwight Howard‘s frequent team changes has become commonplace around the NBA.

It even has crossover appeal.

On “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver opened his monologue on President Donald Trump’s trade war with a few jokes at Howard’s expense. Suffice to say, Oliver doesn’t believe Howard will transform with the Wizards.

(warning: rest of Oliver’s speech contains not-safe-for-work language)

Paul Pierce: I played all 82 games after stabbing to cope with depression

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Paul Pierce was stabbed 11 times at a Boston nightclub on Sept. 25, 2000. He suffered a collapse lung and underwent emergency surgery. But Pierce famously played all 82 of the Celtics’ games that season. That feat was seen as a testament to his resolve.

Really, it was a coping mechanism .

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Long after he was released from the hospital, Pierce remained nervous, jittery, anxious. He couldn’t sleep. The Celtics urged him to seek counseling, but he waved them off. “I thought, ‘I can do this myself,'” Pierce recalls. “I didn’t want anybody else in my business.”

But as the weeks dragged on, moving around in public spaces became almost unbearable for Pierce. The trauma of the event had stripped him of his confidence. His anxiety spiked while dining at Morton’s restaurant in Boston just a few months after the stabbing, when the manager approached him with a house phone and said a friend was insistent on speaking with Pierce. He picked up the receiver, and a menacing voice sneered, “I’m going to kill you.”

“So now I’m really paranoid,” Pierce says. “I don’t want to go anywhere. The police sat in the front of my house for months. I was a mess.

“I think that’s the reason I got back on the court so fast. Me sitting at home thinking about [the stabbing] didn’t work. I went to every practice, sat on the sideline for hours, because that’s where I felt safe. I didn’t want those practices to end because then I had to go back out there in this world that really scared me.”

“I should have opened up earlier than I did,” Pierce admits. “It was eating me alive. Once I finally started talking to a family member, it helped me.

“I realized, ‘I should have done this sooner.’ I would tell everyone to get the help they need. My depression was bad — really bad. I never want to feel that way again.”

This is one small excerpt of MacMullan’s incredible piece on mental health in the NBA. I highly recommend reading it in full.

Report: Rockets signing Bruno Caboclo

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When the Raptors drafted Bruno Caboclo with the No. 20 pick in the 2014 draft, Fran Fraschilla famously declared, “He’s two years away from being two years away.”

If Caboclo is on that timeline, he’ll emerge with the Rockets.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

This is a one-year minimum-salary contract Houston can convert in a two-way deal. It could also include a bonus of $5,000-$50,000 if the Rockets waive him and assign him to their minor-league affiliate.

Caboclo washed out in Toronto and still struggled when receiving more – though still little – playing time with the Kings late last season. Attitude issues with the Brazilian national team don’t engender confidence, either.

But Caboclo is still just 22 and possesses the athletic tools that made him intriguing in the first place. He’s a longshot, but it’s too soon to give up on him completely.