Bradley Beal’s return sparked a great team performance which sealed a victory for the Washington Wizards at home on Thursday.
After missing the previous three games, Brad cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols just in time for Washington’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he didn’t miss a beat, posting a 29-point, 10-assist double-double in the 110-93 victory.
Kyle Kuzma also logged a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds, and the Wiz duo controlled a matchup with Cleveland that ended up being a battle between each team’s top available players. With All-Star candidate Darius Garland in the health and safety protocols. Cleveland’s duo of Evan Mobley and Kevin Love scored 45 points, but most of their damage was done in the first half. Beal and Kuz’s 54 points were spread throughout the game and paved the way for the Wizards’ 17-point victory, 110-93.
Felt good to be back out there!! DUB!! pic.twitter.com/0UeBjU2Acw
— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) December 31, 2021
Wizards Head Coach Wes Unseld Jr. discussed the challenges of having players in and out of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but he believed Brad handled his time away as a professional and kept his body ready. The Washington coach continued his praise by describing No. 3 as sharp in his return.
“I was pleased that after missing so much time he was able to just kind of jump back in and fit seamlessly,” Unseld Jr. said. “I don’t think it’s anything unique to him or his game, I think it’s he’s able to do it and he’s done it at a high level so I think it’s great.”
Early in the opening frame, Brad made his presence known by scoring four points and dishing out an early assist to Daniel Gafford. Each basket was answered quickly by Kevin Love, who scored eight points in a two minute span, to put Cleveland in front 10-9.
Halfway through the first quarter Evan Mobley found his groove and started dominating inside the paint. The rookie big man finished the first quarter with 14 points. However, Wizards role players Deni Avdija and Anthony Gill kept the game close as they both contributed six points in the first. The teams were tied at 28 apiece in the final minute when Brad knocked down his first trey of the evening
to give Washington a brief three-point lead, but Lamar Stevens answered with a bucket in the final seconds and the Wizards carried a one-point lead into the second quarter.
The second frame was the Bradley Beal show, he scored a quick five points by driving into the lane and finishing contested layups, with one resulting in a three-point-play. Cleveland responded with a couple of free throws and a Kevin Pangos layup, but Washington still held onto their lead, 36-34.
This is how you switch on defense. pic.twitter.com/eFQ17y0oXs
— Quinton Mayo (@RealQuintonMayo) December 31, 2021
After a brief reprieve, Beal returned at the 5:41 mark of the second quarter and shortly thereafter was involved in a wild play that saw Brad Wanamaker force Evan Mobley into a turnover. Wanamaker gathered the loose ball and located Brad Beal in the corner, where he hit a wide open three to break a 43-43 tie and put the Wizards back in front by three.
The final three-and-a-half minutes of half saw the Wizards build a bigger lead as No. 3 contributed to all 10 of the team’s points. He scored six points during that final stretch and connected on two alley oops to Daniel Gafford. on the strength of Brad’s 14-point second quarter, the Wizards opened up a seven point lead at half, 58-51.
The third frame began with Beal assisting on a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three-pointer and hitting a jumper of his own, extending Washington’s lead to 12, 63-51.
Cleveland’s offense cooled down in the third quarter, only hitting eight total shots. Kuzma heated up in the third by hitting contested layups and nailing jump shots. He finished the third frame with 13 points giving Washington a comfortable lead, 91-72.
The final quarter the Wizards continued to control the game and made sure the Cavaliers could not find their rhythm offensively. Washington had five players who scored in double figures and focused up defensively after a hot start from Cleveland’s top players to secure their 18th victory of the season.
The Wizards hope the win sparks a streak to start the New Year, as the Chicago Bulls visit Capital One Arena Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on NBC Sports Washington.