When Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards look back on the 2020-21 campaign, whenever and however it ends, they’ll see a common theme of resilience as a thread throughout the course of the season. One that was on full display in the regular-season finale.
Whether it be the fight Washington showed after starting the season with a 6-17 record, or the countless fourth-quarter comebacks they’ve staged, this year’s Wizards team has proven time and time again that they don’t back down from a fight. Sunday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets was perhaps a microcosm of all of it.
Despite Brad playing through a hamstring strain that cost him the previous three games, a chance at the scoring title, and was still clearly bothering him, Washington rallied from a deficit of as much as 16 points for a 115-110 win. No. 3 displayed the kind of mettle and tenacity fans have come to expect from him as he led the team with 25 points and six rebounds.
“I thought Brad looked like Brad, when we needed him he stepped up,” center Robin Lopez said. “Just having him on the floor is such a huge impact on the gravity of the game.”
With their victory Sunday, the Wizards (34-38) officially locked up the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference standings and will play the No. 7 Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA’s postseason play-in tournament. The winner of that game will automatically advance to face the No. 2 Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Charlotte took charge in the first quarter with some hot shooting from beyond the arc to take an early 36-22 lead. Brad worked to shake off the rust from his injury in the first half, but still appeared to be ailing and missed his first six shots and had just five points at halftime while the Hornets took a 56-52 lead into the third quarter.
The Hornets came out of the locker room for the thirds as strongly as they had in the first quarter as a 12-0 run catapulted Charlotte to a 90-79 lead going into the fourth.
However, just as they have so many times before, the Wizards simply did not go out quietly. Instead, they staged another one of their patented late-game comebacks with a 17-4 run to start the fourth quarter. In the final seven minutes of regulation, the lead bounced back and forth through four ties and eight lead changes.
Perhaps the most fitting part of the comeback was Brad’s role in it. Scoring 13 of his 25 points in the final period, No. 3 worked tirelessly to give the Wizards the win as he scored three go-ahead buckets in the final six minutes. He also finished the game with a pair of free throws with nine seconds left to truly finish off the Hornets for good with a 115-110 final score.
After the game, head coach Scott Brooks heaped praise on BB for his gutsy performance.
“He chews nails for breakfast,” coach Brooks said. “I cannot say enough about his toughness.”
No. 3 will get a much-needed day of rest before going up against his long-time friend, fellow St. Louis native Jayson Tatum the Celtics on Tuesday, May 18. With a win over Boston, Washington can seal its first playoff bid since 2018. The game will air on TNT at 9:00 p.m.