As noted philosopher Ric "The Nature Boy" Flair often exclaims, "To be the man, you gotta beat the man." Preseason or not, matched up against Dwyane Wade and the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat, 20-year-old Bradley Beal was the man Tuesday night.
An assertive, knockdown shooting man who scored 29 points _ matching his high from last season _ on 10 of 15 shooting including four 3-pointers in Washington's 100-82 win.
All 29 points came in the first three quarters. Two of the 3-pointers were buzzer beaters at the end of the second and third quarters.
"He's good, he's a good player," Wade said following the loss. "Obviously if they make their No. 1 or 2 option he's going to have a successful season."
The Wizards' quality ball movement and small ball lineups helped set up Beal for open looks, but the wing guard wasn't content to simply stay outside the arc.
"He can use his shot to get inside the paint. He makes some great shots," said LeBron James, who scored 10 points in 24 minutes for the Heat. He’s a good player, I like him.”
In three games against Miami last season, Beal scored a total of 36 points while shooting 3 of 12 from beyond the arc. What changed for Beal in this matchup compared to his previous meetings with Wade and company? As Vince Vaughn's character in Swingers would say, someone is all growns up.
"I have a whole year under my belt," Beal said. "I know how (Wade) plays, he knows how I play. I’ve gotten better, he’s gotten better. It’s me just staying confident and being aggressive. Last year, I wasn’t aggressive at all."
Let's be clear on one thing: this is preseason. The goals for different players and teams - especially these player and these teams - are not always the same. Miami rested its stars late. Previously winless Washington had John Wall and others on the court in the fourth quarter.
Let's be clear on something else: Preseason or not, this game had some heat and we're not talking about the team from Miami.
“The first five minutes we saw how intense the Heat were," Wizards guard John Wall said. "It seems like they are already in regular season form."
The first three quarters felt much closer to a regular season contest than not. In that stretch, Bradley Beal delivered.
“Lights out. He stepped up big for us tonight," Wizards forward Trevor Booker said. "He played like an All-Star.”
The actual All-Stars on the Heat noticed as well.