In front of a ruckus Oklahoma City Kevin Durants crowd, Bradley Beal swiftly ended any chance the Thunder had of pulling out a win by hitting a floating 17 foot jump shot with .03 seconds left on the clock. The dagger put the Wizards up for good, and ultimately ended the game with a 101-99 final score.
It was extremely fitting and appropriate that coach Randy Wittman allowed his young rookie and top pick to take the last shot. Prior to the attempt, Beal was Washington's most consistent player and best shooter for the game.
Could this be a defining moment for Beal's young NBA career?
Wizards fans sure hope so, but he did what he could to back up his own Twitter handle, appropriately named @realdealbeal23.
For all the crap NBA fans and even this Wizards Extreme writer has given this team for the less than sub par/mediocre basketball we've been exposed to over the last 4 years, I think it's time to give a little credit where credit is due.
Beal has recently been playing like the "real deal" that he claims to be. He's earned more and more minutes on the court to go along with starts. His game winner last night was a big win for a Wizards team that was even further decimated by injuries due to Cartier Martin, Jordan Crawford and Nene being inactive, adding to Trevor Booker and John Wall already out of the line up. Considering all the subtractions from last night's Wizards roster, they seemed to play one of their more complete games of the season against the team with the NBA's best record. It was the ultimate David vs Goliath matchup and certainly did not disappoint.
The Wiz kids got off to a great start going up by 10 early in the game, taking a 30-20 lead after the first quarter. The Thunder closed the gap rather quickly and actually took a 53-51 lead going in to the half on a buzzer beating 3-pointer from the corner baseline by Serge Ibaka. Ironically, The way the Thunder took the lead on the buzzer beating 3-pointer was the ultimate demise for why they didn't end up winning the game.
Despite being the NBA’s top 3-point shooting team, I could not seem to understand why OKC seemed so content on trying to beat the Wizards from behind the arc when it seemed like they were able to drive and get dribble penetration to the basket with relative ease as the game went along. OKC went on to shoot 6 for 25 from 3-point land, while the Wizards went 10 for 18, with Bradley Beal draining five of them. Did the Thunder take Washington too lightly? From this guy's perspective it sure looked like it. Russell Westbrook seemed more concerned with trying to cross over A.J. Price and Jan Vesely as opposed to actually attacking the hoop and setting up his shooters. As a result, he only shot 4 of 17 from the field.
While OKC was busy filming their "And 1" mix tape failures, The Wizards won this game by taking advantage of OKC’s arrogant play and put together a complete team effort. Five different Wizards finished in double figures, lead by Beal and Martell Webster with 22 points each.
If not for Bradley Beal's late game heroics, this post may have been about the emergence of….yes, say it with me, Jan Vesely. Dunks, converted jump shots, and..no foul trouble? My head hurts just thinking about that.
Anyway, back to Beal. The losing has taken away from the rookie's spotlight. Lost in a 5-28 season and the hype of RGIII is Bradley Beal’s NBA's Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month award for December. And right now Beal is making a strong case to take the award again for the month of January. Not only has he been one of the Wizards more consistent scorers, but he's transforming in to a leader before our eyes. He plays the game with a passion and desire that I haven't seen from a Wizards player since Caron Butler.
You can tell the kid is extremely hungry and motivated to be the best teammate he can be, and as a result, he's becoming one of the best players on this team. I know it's just one award in a forgettable season, but to Beal, nothing about his recent play is forgettable for him or for Wizards fans. Everyone's taking notice to how this kid is stepping up his game. As he grows more confident on the court, we're seeing his minutes increase and as his minutes increase, we're seeing his production increase. It's the type of chain reaction Wizards fans have been looking forward to all season long.
Randy Wittman has finally come to trust his young rookie and is allowing him to grow on the court. In the past, when he had bad stretches, he would ride the bench Chris Singleton style but Beal's explosiveness and ability to hit jump shots has made him one of the more dynamic and complete players on the team. What does this mean for Wizards fans? Well, short term, not too much as the team just recently won it's 5th game. However, it does offer a great deal of promise towards what this Wizards backcourt can look like once John Wall is back and healthy. Here's to more game winners and 20+ point games!
Let's go Wizards!