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How Denzel Valentine's antics turned John Wall into 'a monster' in Wizards win

How Denzel Valentine's antics turned John Wall into 'a monster' in Wizards win

If there is such a thing as a rookie mistake, Denzel Valentine made it Tuesday. He'd drained a three-pointer en route to his career-high 19 points for the Chicago Bulls, but he celebrated a little too much with too much time on the clock for John Wall's taste. The three-time All-Star offered some advice during the timeout that would come back to haunt the rookie.

"I play with a lot of emotion just like him. I understand where he's coming from," said Wall, who had game highs of 26 points and 14 assists, including the game-winning jumper, for the Wizards to get them over .500 for the first time since November 2015. "I just said, 'Don't celebrate this early.  You're a rookie. You haven't earned those stripes yet.' I told him, 'That's how you feel? You woke up a monster.' I just went on a scoring spree."

The Wizards trailed 92-85 with 7:38 left on Valentine's shot. The Bulls, who'd blown an 18-point lead, trailed 81-77 entering the fourth and appeared headed to an upset when Valentine's three forced a timeout.

Then Markieff Morris started a 10-0 run with consecutive three-pointers and Wall drained a fallaway jumper to cut the deficit to 93-92. Morris' putback of Wall's missed layup put the Wizards back on top, but after Robin Lopez's free throws Chicago was ahead 99-97. While Valentine only could watch, it was Wall's time to close out the game. 

The Bulls did their best to close off the paint, commtting mutiple help defenders to prevent Wall's dribble penetration for most of the game which had much to do with why he didn't attempt a shot in the first quarter.

So Wall began to take what the defense gave him. Out of a timeout, Wall found himself defended by Lopez on a switch while Rajon Rondo was mismatched in the low post with Marcin Gortat. The passing angle wasn't there for an entry pass so Wall got his rhythm on the bounce and pulled up for the tying shot with 47.4 seconds left over Lopez. He won it on the Wizards' bread-and-butter play -- the side pick-and-roll with Gortat.

Gortat screened Michael Carter-Williams which left Wall in space vs. the slow-footed Lopez who gave him the room to square up on the baseline with 5.9 seconds on the clock to give the Wizards (19-18) their 10th consecutive win at Verizon Center.

MORE WIZARDS: 10 MOST MEMORABLE NBA JERSEYS SINCE 2000

"He's a winner," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "That is the bottom line. ... I thought he made the right play on shooting that. If they were going to jump out at him, the pass was the right play. It's not who makes the last shot. It's who makes the right play."

Valentine made 4 of 5 threes in the first half to spark Chicago to a 61-49 lead but they collectively shot 0-for-9 from deep in the third quarter. Valentine was 1-for-6 from three in the second half, his make coming on the celebration that pushed Wall to another level for the finish. 

"I still had a decent second half, but probably could have made a couple more plays down the stretch but credit to them," Valentine said. "They turned it up. ... John Wall did what he was supposed to do."

Wall's heroics rescued the Wizards -- again -- from a disaster playing against a team that didn't have its best player, Jimmy Butler (illness), its veteran shooting guard Dwyane Wade (scheduled rest) and best bench scoring big in Nikola Mirotic (illness). They had to erase a 12-point deficit on Sunday to beat the Milwaukee Bucks who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Wall logged 40 minutes and made 11 of 21 shots to go with six rebounds. When Wall is putting the ball on the floor and going to his right, which the Bulls allowed, he's at his best on the pull-ups. 

"They were back far so I couldn't hit my big, Marcin, rolling (to the rim)," Wall said of how the Bulls defended him. "I was able to get the ball in transition and knock down that shot."

The Wizards lead the season series 2-1 with Chicago, have won theirs 3-1 with Milwaukee, are 1-1 with the Indiana Pacers and hold 1-0 edges vs. the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets. 

To beat the Celtics in the second game of a back-to-back Wednesday at TD Garden, they'll likely need more than Wall. 

Valentine probably had enough of him.

"Nah," Wall said when asked if he had any parting words for his foe at the final buzzer. "Didn't have to."

[RELATED: John Wall, Scott Brooks weigh in on game-winning shot]

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Kevin Durant says don't blame him for lopsided NBA Playoffs

Kevin Durant says don't blame him for lopsided NBA Playoffs

Basketball fans got what they wanted with an NBA Finals rematch between LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, but the road to get there was mostly a snore. As Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk broke down on Friday, the NBA Playoffs so far have been historically lopsided.

Cavs-Warriors was not only a foregone conclusion, but their dominance through the first three rounds contributed to the fewest pre-Finals games since the NBA expanded the first round to seven games. And by average win margin, it also ranked among the least competitive playoffs ever.

Part of that, one could argue, is due to Kevin Durant joining the Warriors. In doing so, he depleted the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were one of the league's best teams, and consolidated power on the Warriors. They have four stars between Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green when a lot of teams around the NBA have zero.

Durant shouldn't be blamed for all of it, of course. James joining the Cavs and teaming up with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love had its domino effect. And a lot of teams just plain stink.

[RELATED: Lonzo Ball turned down Celtics, but will listen to... Sixers?]

Durant issued a strong defense of himself in that regard. He thinks it's unwarranted to say he's the biggest reason. Here is what he told USA Today Sports:

“Like I'm the reason why (expletive) Orlando couldn't make the playoffs for five, six years in a row?” he said. “Am I the reason that Brooklyn gave all their picks to Boston? Like, am I the reason that they're not that good (laughs)? I can't play for every team, so the truth of the matter is I left one team. It's one more team that you probably would've thought would've been a contender. One more team. I couldn't have made the (entire) East better. I couldn't have made everybody (else) in the West better.”

He's right about the Magic and Nets. Yikes, are they terrible. But him leaving OKC did remove one of the best potential matchups in the NBA Playoffs. Their seven-game series against the Warriors last summer was a memorable one and we'll never see it again.

Whether Durant is to blame or not, the playoffs have been anything but great. Ironically, the Wizards' two series against the Hawks and Celtics were probably the best, or at least the most eventful.

[RELATED: JaVale McGee and his cat have a funny story to tell]

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Warriors' big man JaVale McGee and his cat have a funny story to tell

Warriors' big man JaVale McGee and his cat have a funny story to tell

Former Wizards big man JaVale McGee is embroiled in a rather weird situation and it has nothing to do with his rat-tail haircut.

It turns out McGee got himself into some rather serious financial issues with his former landlord in Dallas when he played with the Mavericks. Well, serious for anyone who doesn't make a salary in the millions.

According to Deadspin, McGee had to pay his landlord $26,000 for everything from repairs to unpaid rent. Included was $9,350 in "cat-related fees." Yes, it turns out McGee was guilty of "illicit cat possession."

[RELATED: Lonzo Ball turned down Celtics, but will listen to... Sixers?]

McGee's lease said cats were not allowed, yet he kept his cat there for 178 days. The cat's name is Raja and there are several pictures of him on Instagram:

Game day ... you already kno who I'm rooting for! @pierre_mcgee

A post shared by RAJA (@rajathesphynx) on

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A post shared by RAJA (@rajathesphynx) on

That's a cool-looking cat, but also a very expensive one for McGee.

[RELATED: 10 best games of the Wizards' 2016-17 season]