Boston Celtics all-star forward Paul Pierce has been known to crush the spirits of a rookie or two, and even veterans, with his brash trash talking and flashy shot making, but the 14-year veteran is partly responsible for kick-starting Bradley Beal’s best game of this young season.
Pierce’s eyes lit up and his lips started flapping when Beal wound up guarding him early in the first quarter of the Wizards’ 100-94 overtime loss on Wednesday at TD Garden. Pierce rose up for a jumper but Beal, annoyed with Pierce’s incessant chatter, slapped the shot right over the Celtics’ bench.
“He was talking a little bit so I just blocked it,” Beal said, “and shut him up a little bit.”
What was Pierce saying?
“It was nonsense,” Beal said, shaking his head and refusing to elaborate.
Coach Randy Wittman had urged Beal to find other ways to contribute to help break out of an early funk. And, about two minutes after his first career blocked shot, Beal snapped a string of 12 consecutive missed shots when he knocked down a three-pointer. He went on to finish with career highs of three made three-pointers, 16 points, four rebounds and three assists.
“I felt like I was back to my normal self,” Beal said after the game. “Most definitely, and not even in terms of scoring, because I could care less about that. It was just the fact that I was aggressive on both ends of the floor. I was rebounding, I was playing great defense and then I scored a few points as well…I had a pretty good night, it’s just too bad that we lost.”
The Wizards (0-3) will need to see more of the aggressive Beal when they host the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday at Verizon Center. Jordan Crawford was limited to just two points on 1-of-6 shooting against the Celtics because of sprained ankle and might continue to be limited, if he is able to play. Wittman said after Thursday’s practice that Crawford would be a game-time decision.
“He’s sore,” Wittman said of Crawford. “He tweaked it pretty good the first Boston game and he gave me what he could. And I know he was hurting a little bit. Any coach always appreciates a guy that, in terms of being sore, tries to give you what he’s got.”
The Bucks have one of the more dynamic back courts in the league with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, so Beal will probably find himself matched up against both at different times. Beal will also probably have John Wall and assistant Sam Cassell urging him to keep applying pressure as a scorer.
Wall “and Sam tell me about being aggressive and staying in attack mode,” Beal said.
Beal is still in search of his first career victory, and he is upset that they were unable to close out either game against the Celtics. He watched the final minutes of Saturday’s loss from the bench but he made a go-ahead three-pointer on Wednesday with 1 minute 54 seconds left in regulation.
“Not a doubt in my mind told me we weren’t going to win,” Beal said. “I think down the stretch our aggressiveness goes away and sometimes we panic a lot. We beat ourselves by taking dumb shots or making mistakes on defense or turning the ball over.
“Our start and finishes are bad,” he said. “It’s real mental for us. I think our defense sometimes lags in the beginning of games. We’re kind of sluggish and play too cool, so to speak. We need to come out hard on the jump and try to put them away early. It’s just within us.”