WASHINGTON (AP)Bradley Beal dished the ball to Washington Wizards teammate Davis Bertans for a 3-point attempt, then turned the other way with a trio of fingers in the air, prematurely celebrating.
Turned out Bertans missed. Beal could joke about it afterward, saying, ”He’s got to make it next time, because I can’t be walking back holding my hand up.”
It was a rare mistake lately for Beal, who emerged from his All-Star snub by playing like someone destined to be an all-NBA pick. He ranks second in the league in scoring with an average of 30.5 points after pouring in 39 on Tuesday night during Washington’s 122-115 victory over the New York Knicks.
”It’s kind of hard to contain a guy like that. He’s not going to stop coming at you,” said New York’s Bobby Portis, who was with Washington last season. ”Normally, when a guy misses two or three, he gets down on himself. With him, it doesn’t matter if he misses four, five, six, seven or eight. He’s going to keep coming.”
Asked what it would mean to him to be chosen by the media for all-NBA honors after not making it to Chicago for the midseason festivities last month, Beal paused and cleared his throat.
”That,” he offered eventually, ”would be weird.”
”I didn’t really think about it, but I hope I do. It would be an amazing achievement,” Beal said. ”Ultimately, I want to make the playoffs.”
That Washington is ninth in the Eastern Conference and entered Tuesday 5 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Orlando Magic with fewer than 20 to play is not going to make Beal stop thinking about playing beyond his club’s April 15 regular-season finale.
Indeed, when Beal entered the interview area for his postgame news conference under the NBA’s coronavirus protocol that closed locker rooms to the media, he sat down at the table, looked around and said with a laugh: ”Honestly, I feel like I’m in the playoffs right now.”
A Wizards season that seemed lost from the start, what with a nearly entirely redone and young roster, the absence of hurt point guard John Wall and a bunch of other injuries, has actually been occasionally interesting thanks to Beal.
He put up 53 and 55 points in consecutive games. He scored at least 25 for 21 games in a row; just one player put together a longer such run in the past 20 years.
That streak ended when Beal scored 23 in a loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday, shooting 0 for 9 in the fourth quarter.
”I hated,” he said, ”how I closed out the game.”
How did he respond?
By taking over the next time out, on Tuesday.
”I love his ability to just always put the team first. Sometimes it’s hard. Let’s face it. It’s a league that you have to get your group to believe in – all that stuff – and he does. Not to say he hasn’t been frustrated at times. And I love that part of his makeup. He has to be. I mean, nobody wants to be in the position that we’re in now,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. ”But with all the things that we’ve gone through this year, he’s been so steady. He’s somebody that I rely on, somebody that I talk to, somebody that I have a lot of respect for.”
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