The Washington Wizards live by the “next man up” mentality.
On Tuesday night, Bradley Beal and his teammates embodied it in The District.
In their first game since the announcement that point guard John Wall could miss up to two months, after undergoing a cleanup procedure on his left knee, the Washington Wizards overcame the odds and defeated a scorching hot Oklahoma City Thunder team.
The odds were stacked against D.C. entering play on Tuesday. The Thunder were winners of their last eight games and despite their status as one of the top teams in the East many NBA observers had already written off the Wizards due to Wall’s injury.
BB and his Wiz teammates had other plans, however, and they came away with a gritty 102-96 victory. The Panda assumed more of a facilitator role, as he did during Wall’s extended absence earlier this year. Brad finished the night with 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds to propel his team to victory over one of the league’s most fearsome teams. And afterward, he echoed that “next man up” mentality that has become D.C.’s calling card.
“Things do happen, and it’s always next man up,” said Beal.
Most of No. 3’s scoring came in the first half, including both of his three-pointers on the night, which kept the Wizards in the game, down one at halftime.
Perhaps more importantly, the Wizards played well defensively against a potent Thunder lineup. The Wizards held reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook to 13 points on 18 shots and Carmelo Anthony was limited to 19 points on 21 shots, including a 2-12 outing from three.
“This is probably the best game that we’ve played, in terms of our physicality, our approach, our mental toughness throughout the game,” said Beal.
Beal’s best defensive play of the night came after one of his own turnovers. Midway through the fourth quarter, with the game knotted at 86 apiece, Brad made what appeared to be a costly mistake, delivering a lofty pass that was intercepted by Westbrook. Racing the other way, however, Beal ran down the explosive guard from behind and swatted his shot out of bounds and prevented an easy two.
The play was indicative of the type of night it was for the Wizards. This game was a grind on both ends of the floor. Neither team shot over 40 percent from the floor or above 30 percent from three.
This was a tough, physical game that resembled playoff-basketball and BB and his teammates prevailed despite being down a man. Everybody on the team stepped up on Tuesday night.
Tomas Satoransky played stingy defense on Westbrook throughout the game. Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris contributed in the clutch, combining for 43 points in the game, and they each knocked down a pair of free throws late to seal the win in the final seconds.
After the game, Brad was quick to praise his teammates for their contributions to the win.
“I didn’t win this game by myself. It was a great team effort,” said Beal.
For the Wizards, they host the Toronto Raptors on Thursday at 7pm ET. It will be another playoff-type test for The Panda and his teammates. The Raptors, led by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, currently hold the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.