As the season winds down and the Eastern Conference playoff race tightens, every game matters and Bradley Beal is turning it up to try to get his team back to the postseason.
On a night when he surpassed 1500 career three pointers made, Brad turned down the three-ball and was aggressive getting to the basket in the second half. As a result, he posted a new season-high 37 points on Tuesday night, and the Wizards needed just about every one of them to pull out a 119-116 victory on the road in Atlanta. The win moved Washington to 29-32 solidifying their hold on the 10th and final playoff spot in the East while also helping them gain ground on the Hawks (31-31) who currently sit eighth in the East.
“[The schedule is] tough. Everybody’s a pro. The other teams are pros,” Brad said after the game. “Some guys may have their night, some guys may not have their night. But for the most part, if we play with this type of effort, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
Though Atlanta led for much of the game, thanks to solid defense from Washington, they never were able to push the lead too high for the Wizards to come back.
The Hawks did grab a 10-point lead but Washington answered with a late third quarter run, set off by a pair of threes from Kyle Kuzma. From there, Brad took over.
No. 3 scored 22 of his 37 points in the second half and he did so almost exclusively by penetrating the Hawks interior defense and getting to the bucket. He attempted just one three in the second half, and went 10-for-16 from inside the arc, adding a pair of free throws. BB also tallied six second half assists, drawing in defenders with his drives and dishing to open teammates.
“Offensively, Kuz got us going, late in the third, early in the fourth. I closed it,” he said. “It was just staying aggressive no matter who was guarding me“I was making it my mission to be aggressive every time I touched the ball. I was just being confident in my game, confident in myself, and I credit my teammates for getting me open, telling me to keep going. I just made shots. I’m just happy we got the dub. That’s what matters most.”
Washington was down just one with 3:21 remaining, when Brad forced Trae Young into a bad pass that the Wizards intercepted and Kyle Kuzma took it back for a dunk to put the D.C. in front 112-111. After Atlanta re-took the lead, Brad drove past Young to the bucket for a layup that gave Washington the edge right back. The Washington defense registered blocks on Atlanta’s next two possessions and a free throw by Daniel Gafford had the Wizards up 115-113 with under a minute to go.
After dribbling the clock down in 40 seconds, Brad buried a pull-up from just inside the arc to extend the lead to two possessions. After a timeout, Young quickly answered with a three to give the Hawks a chance, down 117-116 with 31 seconds left. Atlanta chose not to foul, hoping to get a stop and a chance to win. But No. 3 would have none of it.
With under 15 seconds to go he initiated the play, and after some staggered screens, drove to the left, then used a step-back and step-through to get a good look, which he banked off the glass for a bucket to put the Wizards up by three with 8.9 seconds remaining.
From there it was up to the Washington defense, which forced Young to take two very deep threes in the final five seconds. Both missed the mark as the Wizards held on to win.
After the game, Brad said it’s the defense, which limited Atlanta to just 26 points on 8-of-24 (33 percent) in the fourth quarter, that will make the difference in how far D.C. can go this season.
“We have enough in [this locker room] and when we get [Kristaps Porzingis] back, that’s even better. We have enough offensively. We just have to make sure we stay locked in defensively in our schemes, personnel and trying to stop teams as best we can.”
The Wizards get another chance to gain on a team directly in front of them in the standings on Thursday night when they host the Toronto Raptors at Capital One Arena. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on NBC Sports Washington.