Bradley Beal’s recent ridiculous scoring pace has included more than a few historical footnotes. Not all of them are positive ones.
After setting back-to-back career highs with 53 points against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday and 55 against the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, Beal became the first player in league history to score 50 or more on consecutive nights — while on the losing side of both games.
After the overtime loss to the Bucks, Beal was serious when he said he felt “terrible, honestly.”
“I’m a winner, so you can throw those 55 out with the last 53,” he said.
His single-minded desire to win hasn’t endeared himself to everyone. One columnist for The Athletic argued that Beal should cut the “raging attitude” because he knew what he was getting into by signing a two-year extension with Washington before the season, with the team very obviously in the middle of a rebuild.
On the other hand, Beal likely would have drawn criticism from other corners had he instead followed his peers in jumping ship for a superteam. Beal wants to win, but he wants to do so with the Wizards. And the end of Wednesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets provided a stage for him to lead the Wizards by doing more than just scoring.
Down one point with just 15 seconds and counting, Wizards coach Scott Brooks elected not to call his final timeout and let Beal bring the ball up the floor. He drew a double team near midcourt; Nets coach Kenny Atkinson admitted later he directed his team to swallow up Beal and make someone else beat them. So Beal made a jumping pass to an open Jerome Robinson, who knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer with eight seconds left.
Beal finished the 110-106 win with 30 points — an average night, by the new standards of the NBA’s second-leading scorer — plus that all-important assist.
Brooks said he let the play unfold without calling a timeout because he didn’t want Brooklyn to be able to change its defense, and moreover, because he knew Beal would make the right play.
“He’s much more (than) when I took the job four years ago,” Brooks said. “I knew he was much more than just as a shooter or scorer. He can make plays and he’s a two-way player. He’s an all-around. He’s a set on the basketball court.”
It was the second straight game Beal set up a teammate for a pivotal shot. On Monday, it was Troy Brown Jr. who tried a last-second three that would have forced double overtime. The difference was that Brown missed, while Robinson made his shot Wednesday.
Robinson’s case in particular is worth more examination. He has only been a Wizard for three weeks after Washington acquired him in a trade to move Isaiah Thomas out of town. A reserve guard, Robinson made just 36% of his shots in his first six games with the team, and he hadn’t made a three all night.
“I trust everybody in here,” Beal said. “If Coach has you on the floor, there’s a reason you’re out here. I’m not going to chuck it up from 45 (feet) when I’ve got two, three people running at me and I’ve got wide-open teammates. Win, lose or draw, I’m always going to trust guys who are wide open.”
In turn, Beal also felt Brooks is trusting him more as a playmaker in crucial moments of the game.
“I’m actually happy he’s starting not to call (timeouts),” Beal said. “I know when I’m in transition, I’m going to make a play. … It’s a relationship we’ve grown. Sometimes he has good plays he wants to draw up and sometimes, depending what the score may be, he lets me rock.”
For all the time point guard John Wall has missed to injury in the last three seasons, Brooks said Beal has had plenty of game reps to learn to fill more of a floor general role when called upon.
Beal’s game has evolved because he wants to find ways to win. Of course, he’ll always be known as a scorer first, if only because his numbers have gotten so gaudy.
Beal was just the third player to score 53 or more in consecutive games, joining Wilt Chamberlain and James Harden. His 108 combined points Sunday and Monday were the most a single player has scored on consecutive days since Kobe Bryant in 2007.
With at least 25 points Friday at Utah, Beal will tie Walt Bellamy’s franchise record of 17 straight 25-point games.
“I guess the league don’t want me to score 50 either,” Beal joked.
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