Being a newly minted All-Star starter suits Bradley Beal well, just ask the Portland Trail Blazers.
Two nights after learning of his selection to start the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, Bradley Beal popped off for one of his best games of the season. No. 3 connected on nearly 60 percent of his shots, (16-of-27, 59.3 percent) scoring 37 points and added seven rebounds, three assists and two steals as the Washington Wizards won their fourth straight game, defeating the Trail Blazers 118-111.
As has been his MO this season, Brad got off to a hot start, scoring 11 first quarter points, however it was the Trail Blazers that jumped out to a huge advantage, leading by 12 after one. Washington stormed back in the second and a key factor was their defense. After allowing 43 points in the first, the Wizards held Portland to just 12 in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the D.C. offense kept rolling and behind another 11-point frame from Brad, they grabbed the lead, 61-55 at the break.
“Defensively, it takes all five and we’re being better at that,” Brad said. “Everybody is accepting the individual challenge, we’re helping each other, and it’s all starting to click. We’re not getting tired of doing the right things on the floor and I think that’s just been a testament to our maturity over the last few games.”
The third quarter saw a resurgence from the tough to hold down Portland offense. Though Brad once again scored 11, for the third straight quarter, it was Portland that pulled ahead by shooting nearly 54 percent from the field as they tallied 37 points. That included 23 from Damian Lillard, who drilled a three at the third quarter buzzer to give the Blazers a three-point lead heading for the fourth.
But the Wizards doubled down on defense over the final 12 minutes, holding their opponent under 20 once more. Brad didn’t quite match his scoring output from the first three quarters, but he made his four fourth quarter points count. The first two, a mid-range score, put Washington in front 97-96 and they would not relinquish the lead again. Later, he added his final bucket, which sparked a 7-0 Wizards run to put the game out of reach. Down the stretch the Wiz defended very well, particularly against Lillard, who followed his 23-point third with just six points on 1-of-9 from the field in the fourth.
“We’re just trying to come out and compete and win. We understand we still have an opportunity to make a nice little playoff run. We’re just putting ourselves in position to do so,” Brad said. “We’re going to continue to do what we do, at a consistent level, cheer on the next man, and continue to play scrambling defense. That’s been our go-to for the last couple so we’re just going to continue to stick with what’s been working.”
The Wizards will look to keep it up as they visit Southern California for a Staples Center back-to-back, taking on two of the top teams in the West on consecutive nights, the Lakers on Monday and the Clippers on Tuesday. Both games will tip-off at 10 p.m. ET and can be seen on NBC Sports Washington.