One of the most spectacular qualities of Bradley’s Beal season thus far has been his ability to drive to the bucket and, when he gets there, either score or draw a foul.
Wednesday night with the game on the line, the Wizards relied on that ability and Brad did what he’s done best all year, forcing a foul on his last second drive to get to the line. Once there, No. 3 locked in Washington’s third straight victory with a pair of free throws to cement a wild 130-128 win over a tough Denver Nuggets team. Brad finished with 25 points and a season-high 10 assists, marking his second double-double of the season, but afterward he spoke about the strides made by his teammates.
“The ultimate thing is that we stuck with it,” Brad said after the game. “I think it just shows our poise and our growth.
It was Denver that came out hot off the bat, all but ensuring that it wouldn’t be another under 100-point night for the Washington defense by scoring 41 in the opening frame, led by 15 from MVP candidate Nikola Jokic. The second frame saw the Wizards roar back, doubling Denver on the scoreboard 46-23. Brad was a big part of the outburst, pumping in 14 of his 25 alone while Davis Bertans added 12 points off the bench as Washington pushed to a six-point halftime lead.
“We had to pick up our intensity. They weren’t doing anything special. They were just playing harder than we were, getting a lot of offensive rebounds and that’s stuff that we can control, myself included. It was just a matter of getting stops, one, and then boxing our guy out and securing the ball. We did a really good job of that from the second quarter on through the rest of the game.”
In the third frame Brad, the league’s leading scorer, didn’t see his shot coming at the clip he’s become accustomed to, so he switched it up dishing out five assists in the third quarter alone. At one point, No. 3 assisted on four straight Wizards buckets, two by Alex Len and two by Raul Neto, as D.C. went punch-for-punch with the high-powered Denver offense in the third.
Washington headed to the fourth with a seven-point lead but despite an incredible effort by Bertans, who finished the game with 35 points and nine made threes, they had trouble maintaining the lead. They led by 13 with four-and-a-half minutes remaining, but Denver would not go down without a fight. Jamal Murray, who had 19 points of his own in the fourth, was the catalyst.
With under two minutes to go, he buried a trey to make it a one-point game. When Brad answered with a bucket, Murray hit another one, tying the score at 125-125. Bertans drew a foul aiming for his 10th three and sank all three free throws with eight seconds remaining, but again Murray buried a triple to knot the score with just two seconds left.
On the ensuing Wizards inbound, Russell Westbrook found Brad on a curl toward the baseline and hit him in stride. Brad drove to the bucket and forced Jeff Green to go up to stop him. His shot did not go in, but the unavoidable contact by Green drew a whistle sending BB to the line with :00.1 remaining. He sank both free throws to secure the hard-fought victory.
“It was like five different games in one tonight. We got off to a shaky start, and then our bench comes in and makes some noise and brings us back. Before you know it, we’re up at half, we’re going into the second half, we’re winning. And then all of a sudden they make their run, it gets a little crazy and nerve-wracking at the end,” Brad said. “I think earlier in the year we definitely would have folded in those situations, but we did a good job of defending and executing when we needed to down the stretch.”
The Wizards will take their season-best three-game winning streak on the road for a four-game trip to visit four Western Conference contenders. It begins Saturday when they take on the Portland Trail Blazers. Tip-off is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on NBC Sports Washington.