Bradley Beal scored 30 points in back-to-back wins before the All-Star break to keep the Washington Wizards firmly in playoff contention at the unofficial halfway point of the season. The Wizards currently sit in the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference, just three games behind the Orlando Magic for the final playoff spot.
The Wiz have turned up the intensity of late, and the results are starting to show how this team has developed. The team is positioned to make a run down the stretch, so Beal knows that they have to be ready to go when they return from the All-Star Break.
“We’re in a good spot,” Beal said after Wednesday’s win over the New York Knicks. “We can make a lot of noise coming out of the break, we set ourselves up, so we have to come back next Wednesday ready to go.”
On Tuesday night, Brad and rookie Rui Hachimura paced the Wizards in scoring, combining for 50 of the team’s 126 points in a win in which Washington played from in front for most of the game. Quick starts to each half contributed to the Washington lead, and solid defense and clutch shot-making down the stretch sealed the 12-point win over the Chicago Bulls, who sit one spot behind the Wiz in the playoff race.
Bench production played a key role yet again, with Shabazz Napier, Davis Bertans and Moritz Wagner all scoring in double figures for the second unit.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak to the Bulls, but the team knew they had more work to do before All-Star Weekend arrived. They had a date at Madison Square Garden for a showdown with the New York Knicks.
“We still have one more game before the All-Star break and we have to focus on it,” Scott Brooks said. “This is the game a lot of teams are all over the map. Tonight’s games and tomorrow night’s games and even Thursday’s games. We want to be able to say to ourselves that we’re going to be locked in mentally and we’re going to be sharp and focused.”
Brad and his teammates came ready to play again on Wednesday night, competing hard with the Knicks on the second night of a back-to-back. The Knicks clung to a slim four-point lead at halftime, but the Wizards lit up MSG in the second half to secure their second victory in as many nights.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said postgame. “We played last night, got in late. The Knicks have been playing really well. We knew we wanted to keep improving and taking advantage of opportunities. Our guys responded.”
The Panda once again scored 30 points, marking his 12th consecutive game with 25-plus points. Only James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo have recorded longer such streaks this season, and it’s the longest streak by a Washington player since Walt Bellamy in 1964.
Of Beal’s 30 points, 10 came in a nearly seven-minute stretch in the fourth quarter where the Panda helped spark a 31-14 run to run away with the 114-96 victory.
Beal enters All-Star Weekend averaging 29.1 points per game which is the highest scoring average ever by someone not named an All-Star. While Beal has produced at the quality of an All-Star, he will next see the court when the Wizards regroup next week after the weekend festivities as Washington looks to surge up the Eastern Conference standings into a playoff spot.
The playoff push will resume next Friday, February 21 when the Wiz host the Cleveland Cavaliers at Capital One Arena. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.