Wizards stay hot vs Rockets
Bradley Beal might only be 19 years old, but the teenager has developed veteran-level craftiness during his rookie campaign. The latest example saved the Wizards in the final seconds of Saturday's 105-103 win over the Rockets.
Tied at 103-103 in the closing seconds, Washington took possession - and advantage of an interior size mismatch. With 6-foot-10 Emeka Okafor guarded by 6-foot-6 Carlos Delfino, the Wizards fed their center on the low post.
The Rockets fouled Okafor with 5.2 seconds left, sending the 55 percent free throw shooter to the line for two shots. He put the Wizards ahead by making the first, but as the numbers suggested he might, Okafor missed the second.
Readying himself along the lane for a potential rebound on the second shot, the 6-foot-4 Beal gauged his own sizeable mismatch scenario, noticing Houston's 7-foot center Omar Asik in his vicinity.
“I thought Asik was going to box me out," said Beal, who led the Wizards with 21 points. "I kinda disguised it like I wasn’t gonna go in. Most bigs, they don’t ever box out a guard."
Asik paid nominal attention to Beal, who blocked the center's dunk attempt in the first quarter. As Okafor's errant shot caromed long, Beal read the angle and jumped toward the ball for the rebound.
"It was a long rebound and I just ended jumping up for it," Beal said. "I was in the right place at the right time I guess.”
Not only did the rookie grab the board, he calmly and wisely dribbled away from Asik and those looking to foul him. Houston eventually caught up with Beal, sending him to the free throw line with 1.9 seconds left. He also only made one of two, but Houston had no timeouts remaining. Trevor Ariza blocked James Harden's halfcourt attempt.
“Bradley makes plays," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "He has done it for us before, and I have faith that he will continue to. Against Oklahoma City he hit that big shot and tonight he got a crucial rebound to help seal the deal.
"I will certainly not let him off the hook for missing a free throw," said the smiling coach," but he played well tonight.”
Beal has played well over several nights since the calendar flipped to 2013. During the Wizards' first nine games in January, he shot a staggering 60.4 percent (26 of 43) from beyond the arc while averaging 19.2 points. The rising Rookie of the Year candidate scored a career-high 28 points - the most by any Wizard this season - in a win over Milwaukee on Feb. 12.
Against Houston, Washington rallied from a 17-point first half deficit. Beal scored 15 points after halftime including a clutch 3-pointer and three free throws in the fourth quarter.
"You see we ran a couple of plays for him in the pick and roll," said backcourt mate and big brother figure John Wall. "He’s really maturing throughout every game he plays during his rookie season."
Beal has also played tough - and fearless, taking serious tumbles on attempted dunks and other aggressive plays. This week alone, Beal suffered two chipped teeth after a collision with Cartier Martin's forehead during practice and took a nasty spill late in Friday's win against the Nuggets. Down on the court for a few moments, the former high school football player rose up and after a brief sideline visit came back in for the closing stretch.
Despite Beal's growing importance as one of Washington's leading men, Randy Wittman has no interest in seeing the Wizards' second-leading scorer curb his assertive ways.
"You don't ever want to take away a guys recklessness," the Wizards coach said. "That's who he is. You don't want to harness any of that. I think that's why he's been successful playing the game. I don't want to take that away. I don't like seeing it. He's a tough kid that's taken some spills, gets up and finishes the game."
In Friday's 119-113 triumph over Denver, Beal tallied his second double-double with 17 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
Surrounded by microphones and cameras in the Wizards postgame locker room, Beal was asked by a reporter about gaining comfort as a rebounder. Before the rookie could respond, a nearby Martell Webster heckled loudly.
'Whoa, whoa, whoa. It's two games," Webster bellowed, sending the room into laughter. The poised Beal attempted to answer the question but the ribbing from teammates continued.
"All right you guys," said the amused kid while trying to stay professional in the jocular atmosphere with the cameras focused on his face - - and his just-fixed teeth.
Since Jan. 7, the Wizards have taken a bite out of winning teams, sporting an 11-4 record against such foes. The first game in this span ended with Beal sinking the go-ahead floater against the Thunder in the closing seconds.
Asked if a game-winning rebound is as memorable as a game-winning basket, Beal said, "I don't know if people remember, but I most definitely will."