Wizards must exercise extreme caution with Beal

Wizards must exercise extreme caution with Beal
February 28, 2014, 9:00 am
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Highlights: Wizards 134, Raptors 129 (3 OT)

Playing on the road makes the NBA unpredictable, especially when its two games in three days and a team, such as the Wizards, is coming off a triple-overtime game. Injuries and minutes restrictions are concerns for coach Randy Wittman, who is going to have a juggling act on his hands particularly when it comes to Bradley Beal.

Beal, who missed nine games earlier in the season because of a stress reaction to his lower right leg, logged 51 minutes in the 134-129 victory at the Toronto Raptors on Thursday. His jump shot, nor his legs, looked strong at the end. Beal shot 4-for-16. But the Wizards have extended their season-long winning streak to five games with a good possibility of making it six Saturday at the Philadelphia 76ers (CSN, 7:30 p.m.).  

"I'm tired. I'm not going to lie and say I'm not tired. My legs are definitely a little bit heavy. It's great for me to actually have that feeling to know that I still was going to be able to play," Beal said. "At the end of regulation I took my mouthpiece out like, "Damn, I'm not going to be able to play.' Coach said, "What are you doing?' I said well, 'I guess I'll go back in.'"

Marcin Gortat played 51, Trevor Ariza 50 and John Wall 49. Ariza has missed time this season with a hamstring strain, but Wall and Gortat are the only starters to not miss a game.

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Complicating matters for Wittman, who won't have Nene until April and might not have backup center Kevin Seraphin for the third game in a row when the Wizards play at Saturday, is that he's trying to integrate a couple veterans who aren't in game shape, too, and have to monitor their minutes.

Al Harrington, 33, recently returned from right knee surgery and had only played seven games for the Wizards (30-28). He was held to 16 minutes in Toronto. Andre Miller, 37, who hadn't played in almost seven weeks until he was traded by the Denver Nuggets to Washington, was on the floor 15 minutes. 

Wittman didn't use rookie Otto Porter or Drew Gooden, signed to a 10-day contract Thursday, but if the Wizards can get out to a big lead and put away the Sixers (15-43) early that could allow him to empty his bench and rest players. 

If Wittman is going to be cautious with his role players, he needs to have the same attitude to one of his young stars in Beal. Ideally, Beal doesn't play more than 25-30 minutes. But the Wizards were off Friday, and this is one of those times when everything seems to be going so right for the Wizards that something is destined to go wrong given their recent injury history. 

"If we played a back-to-back I probably wouldn't have played this much," Beal said.