Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal brought his “A” game and never looked back, dishing out another loss on the road for the Phoenix Suns, 109 – 106. The self-proclaimed by way of social media showed up despite some of his below average performances this season. He put up 34 points and shot 12-of-23 from the field to give the Wizards a final-minute win Friday at the Verizon Center.
Out went the Bigs Friday night, leaving the Wizards to rely on their wings and guards. Center/forwardNeNe (calf-strain), forward/center Drew Gooden (calf strain), forward/ center Kris Humphries(sprained left ankle) and center Marcin Gortat (personal matter) all sat out of the game.
However, Washington still out-rebounded the Suns 41-35 with a combination of a smaller squad of players; namely point guard John Wall, Beal, point guard Ramon Sessions, guard Garrett Templeand forward Otto Porter. There was some masterful maneuvering by Head Coach Randy Wittman, who played his smalls in and out of the four and five positions in the fourth quarter. This proved to be the right dose of confusion for the Suns. Washington held Phoenix to just eight points in the final seven minutes of the game.
Credit must be given to the pure hustle of Beal with his meteoric play. He never gave up throughout this game. Picks and free throws opened the door for him as he logged nine rebounds along with 34 points, five assists and two steals. Wall had five rebounds while Porter had seven and six came from point guard Gary Neal. The Wizards out-scored the Suns with Beal bringing Washington back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth.
Beal began this, his fourth, year in stellar fashion, averaging 25 points (57.9 percent from the field), 4.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals. The go-to man for the Wizards scored at least 24 points in the first five games this season and then out of nowhere, his production diminished. As well he was sidelined by a shoulder injury as he dove for a ball in a game a few weeks ago against the Atlanta Hawks. No question, Friday night, Beal was the real deal, scoring 24 of his 34 points in the second half for Washington.
The 2011 All-Rookie guard has struggled lately though, before this game. His numbers have been declining, shooting at just 27.8 percent in the last six games. He was four-for-12 earlier in the week when the Wizards hosted the Los Angeles Lakers and finished that contest with 11 points. In that game, the Wizards faced L.A. legend Kobe Bryant and played like they were star-struck. Beal himself wasn’t physical enough… a mistake one can’t make against a player like Bryant.
Beal knows he must bring it each and every night for the Wizards to be successful although obviously, he is not the only one that needs to do so. Wall needs to cut down on the turnovers, Porter has to be more consistent and the Bigs must stay healthy.
However, Friday night’s Wizards win against the Suns was surprising. Washington had 23 turnovers while the Suns committed 21. The difference in the game was that those 21 turnovers turned into 28 points for the Wizards. Beal’s ability to be crafty was — and will remain — necessary.
The bottom-line is that Beal was in that zone… the zone in which he was driving, defending and making things happen out of nowhere. Every shooter will go through highs and lows but must maintain the mindset that they will have an impact on any given game — even if four-for-12 from behind the arc. This is the difference between a shooter and a scorer.
Beal is almost there but not quite.
They say that those fourth years can be breakout seasons for shooting guards like Beal. In keeping with that theory, Beal’s ball-handling has improved. He’s playing more confidently and aggressively; and he has put up career-high numbers this season. His problems are not as bad as the depth issues for the Wizards, Wall’s turnovers or NeNe’s health… but those are other stories.
Even with his sporadic shooting this season, Washington needs Beal to do what he did against Phoenix on a more regular basis.
The Wizards and their fans saw the “Real-Deal” on Friday. His continued play like that could seal the deal for Washington this season.