Bradley Beal crawls under stands to retrieve ball (video)

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Bradley Beal is completely committed to helping the Wizards.

He took that to a new extreme in Washington’s win over the Rockets last night.

When the ball went under the empty stands, Beal – the Wizards’ star player – crawled underneath to get it.

NBC Sports Washington:

This sure is more positive than the last video representative of Beal’s situation.

Three things to Know: Mavericks slumping way right out of playoffs

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LOS ANGELES — Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Mavericks slumping way right out of postseason

This is how bad things look for the Mavericks: If the postseason started today, not only would Dallas miss even the play-in, but their No.11 pick in the draft would go to the New York Knicks, the team that took Jalen Brunson from them last summer (the pick heads to NYC as part of the Kristaps Porzingins trade from four years ago, but it is top-10 protected).

Things are bleak in Dallas — the Mavericks dropped their second game in a row to the tanking Charlotte Hornets (without LaMelo Ball) on Sunday, making it four straight losses and 7-of-9 for a team that took a big swing at the trade deadline landing Kyrie Irving.

Irving has not been the problem — the Mavericks have a +4.8 net rating when Irving is on the court (and +4.6 when he and Dončić are both on), and the reports out of Dallas are he has been a model citizen in the locker room. And Dončić is not the problem, he dropped 40 on Sunday (he started 0-of-6 shooting but found his groove).

The problem is the Mavericks were a too-small, 24th-ranked defensive team before they sent their best defenders to Brooklyn to land Irving. Now they can’t stop anybody, particularly inside — even lowly Charlotte scored 22 more points in the paint than Dallas, and the Hornets had 20 more rebounds, including 11 more offensive rebounds.

The Mavericks started Dwight Powell (he only played four minutes) and Josh Green at the 4/5 and they combined for five points.

Now Dallas faces Myles Turner and Indiana on a back-to-back, and will do it without Dončić, who picked up his 16th technical on the season — triggering an automatic suspension — when he complained a little too much after not getting a call on a leaning baseline jumper.

At 36-39, the Mavericks are a full game back of the Thunder and Lakers, who currently are tied for the 9/10 seeds in the West, and Dallas has the hardest remaining schedule of those three. No wonder Dončić is frustrated.

They will not choose this path, but should the Mavericks pack it in and tank to get into the top 10 of the NBA Draft and try to keep their pick for this season? That seems the smarter franchise-building move as opposed to trying to salvage this season by making the bottom of the play-in and trying to win a couple of games to be the No.8 seed. It’s also not something Dallas would do with Dončić and Irving on the roster.

In which case, the Mavs had better find a way to get a few more stops and improve their play in the paint, because it’s more that than their stars keeping them out of the postseason.

2) LeBron returns from foot injury, scores 19 off bench, Lakers still lose

LeBron James said the first two doctors he spoke with suggested he get surgery after his foot injury last month. However, he went and saw the preeminent foot doctor in Los Angeles and he said not to go under the knife and came up with a treatment plan. A month later, LeBron James was back on the court Sunday, scoring 19 points for the Lakers off the bench in his return.

It was not enough Sunday.

Even with LeBron, the Lakers remain a team with no margin for error and Zach LaVine carved Los Angeles up for 32 points on 13-of-19 shooting, while DeMar DeRozan added 17 points and 10 assists back home in L.A., and the Bulls picked up the 118-108 win.

Patrick Beverley even too-smalled LeBron.

And the Bulls won despite Nikola Vucevic getting a quick-trigger ejection, although he didn’t fight it so he must have said some magical words.

The Bulls have quietly gone 10-5 since the All-Star break and have the second-best defense in the NBA over that stretch. They have climbed up to the No.10 seed in the East and are tied in the loss column with the 8th-seeded Hawks — the Bulls making it out of the play-in to the playoffs is not a crazy idea.

The Lakers may only be one-game back of the Warriors in the loss column for the No.6 seed in the West, and now they have LeBron back in the lineup, but this is still a below .500 team whose margin for error is too small. The Lakers look like a play-in team. For more than 70 games the Lakers have struggled to string together consistent play, do we really think they will start doing it now?

Play-in or not, with LeBron and Anthony Davis, you know that Denver and Memphis — the likely top two seeds in the West — are looking down at the play-in and thinking they want no part of the Lakers in the first round.

3) Anthony Edward returns, KAT is clutch and Minnesota beats Golden State

Could the Timberwolves pass the Warriors and move into the top-six in the West, sending the defending champs to the play-in?

That looked much more realistic Sunday when the Warriors got sloppy when it mattered — they turned the ball over 11 times in the second half — and Karl-Anthony Towns knocked down two critical 3-pointers down the stretch, and the Timberwolves beat the Warriors 99-96. This play pretty much sums up the key moments of the second half.

The Timberwolves deserve credit — they played tough, opportunistic defense when it mattered. Jaden McDaniels doesn’t score much but he has become critical for them. Naz Reid led Minnesota in scoring with 23 off the bench. Edwards, in his return from a sprained ankle, looked rusty early but found a groove late and was a team-best +12 on the night.

Minnesota is the No.7 seed in the West, half a game back of the Warriors but tied in the loss column. Their schedules are pretty even down the stretch.

It’s hard not to pick the defending champs to hold on to the top-six seed, but after a frustrating season where they have not consistently stood out on either end of the court, it’s hard to picture them flipping the switch for the final six games as well. Maybe this is not their year… which we might have guessed back in training camp when Draymond Green punched Joran Poole.

LeBron scores 19 off bench in return, Bulls spoil party with 118-108 win

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James scored 19 points off the bench in his return from a monthlong injury absence, but Zach LaVine scored 32 points to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 118-108 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

DeMar DeRozan added 17 points for the Bulls, who easily overcame James’ return for their seventh win in nine games. LaVine hit 11 of his first 14 shots to lead an offensive effort that snapped the Lakers’ three-game winning streak despite the return of the NBA’s career scoring leader.

James sat out 13 games with right foot soreness, missing four weeks during the Lakers’ run at a playoff berth. The team provided few updates on his recovery, and his return came with little advance warning.

“I felt confident in the workouts that I had this week,” James said. “And the day after the workouts, when I woke up, stepped out down off the bed, I could possibly play today. And after my workout early before the game today, I knew I could play.”

For only the second time in his 20-year, 1,958-game NBA career, James wasn’t a starter. He came in as a reserve midway through the first quarter, doing his standard pregame chalk toss while receiving a standing ovation from Lakers fans. James got a field goal in every quarter, and he finished with eight rebounds, three assists and five turnovers in 30 minutes.

“You could see him getting his rhythm, his timing, his finishes, all of that,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “He’s a savvy veteran, one of the greatest ever to do it, so it’s not going to take all that much.”

Chicago largely controlled play despite James’ return, streaking to a 20-point lead in the second quarter. Los Angeles briefly got the lead down to single digits down the stretch, but got no closer.

“There are going to be swings, and that was the encouraging part,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “I’m seeing a response back competitively.”

Patrick Beverley had 10 points and five assists in his first game against the Lakers since they traded him last month. Beverley has been outspoken about his desire to hurt the Lakers’ playoff hopes during this home-and-home series between the teams, but Davis and the other Lakers just smiled at his provocative talk.

When Beverley made a little hook shot with 1:12 left to boost Chicago’s lead back to double digits, Beverley slapped the floor and made the dismissive “too small” gesture sometimes used by NBA players to taunt their opponents, in this case James.

“I was just playing basketball,” Beverley said. “Obviously it’s good to see some old teammates, old coaching staff.”

Troy Brown Jr. and Malik Beasley scored 18 points apiece, but Anthony Davis managed just 15 points and nine rebounds as the Lakers (37-38) failed to get above .500 for the first time since Jan. 9, 2022.

The Lakers were without D’Angelo Russell, who missed his second straight game with a right hip injury. Los Angeles went 8-5 in James’ absence, but his return will force an adjustment of the chemistry built by his teammates in his absence.

“We came out a little flat, turned the ball over early, just weren’t aggressive enough, physical enough,” Ham said.

The Bulls largely controlled Davis even after Nikola Vucevic was ejected in the second quarter with two quick technical fouls when he argued what appeared to be a good call against him. Donovan jokingly wondered how Vucevic could be ejected when he was arguing in his native Serbian.

“Obviously it was a bad decision by me to react the way I did,” Vucevic said. “My mistake. I’m just glad my teammates came through for us. I obviously overreacted, for sure.”

Watch Dončić pick up 16th technical, will result in one-game suspension

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Luka Dončić barks at the referees more than any player in the league, and with that he does not get the benefit of the doubt when he’s flirting with the edge of a technical foul.

That caught up with Dončić on Sunday, when he didn’t get a call on a leaning baseline jumper, said something to the nearby official, and racked up his 16th technical this season. That will mean an automatic one-game suspension unless it is rescinded (which is unlikely in this case).

Dončić likely will have to sit out Monday when the Mavericks play the Pacers on the second game of a back-to-back.

This suspension comes on the heels of Dončić being fined $35,000 — but not being given a technical foul at the time — for making a money gesture towards a referee in frustration after another recent Mavericks loss.

Dončić went on to have 40 points Sunday but the Mavericks lost again — their second time in a row to the tanking Hornets, their fourth in a row overall and they have now dropped 7-of-9. That has dropped them out of even the play-in to 11th in the West. The Mavericks need to rack up wins over the season’s final two weeks to even make the postseason.

And they must get that next win Monday without Dončić in the lineup.

 

UPDATE: LeBron “active,” will make return to court Sunday vs. Bulls

Celebrities At The Los Angeles Lakers Game
Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images
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UPDATE: LeBron James has officially been upgraded to active and will make his return to the team on Sunday against the Chicago Bulls.

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A couple of days ago, reports said LeBron James hoped to return and play the final few games before the season ended and he said there was no timeline for his return.

In less than 24 hours the Lakers have moved LeBron from “out” last game to “doubtful” and now — as of Sunday morning — questionable for the Lakers game against the Bulls. While nothing is confirmed, these are the steps a team takes before a player returns from injury. LeBron is going to test his foot pregame and make a decision.

LeBron had been pushing to return from a foot tendon injury that had sidelined him for 13 games. The Lakers have gone 8-5 in those games behind the second-best defense in the league over that stretch. What has struggled during those games has been the offense (23rd in the league) and LeBron instantly fixes that. He has averaged 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game this season and the Laker offense has been six points per 100 possessions better when he has been on the court.

The Lakers currently sit tied for the No.7/8 seeds in the West, with an outside shot at climbing into the top six (they are 1.5 games back of the Lakers and Clippers who are tied for sixth, but if those teams go 4-3 the rest of the way the Lakers need to go 6-2 over their last eight just to tie them). The Lakers are also one game ahead of the 11-seed Dallas Mavericks and missing out on the playoffs entirely.

The Lakers need wins the rest of the way to secure a playoff spot, and some time to build chemistry heading into the playoffs. Having LeBron James helps with all of that.