Bradley Beal is never satisfied with his game and that’s one of the reasons why he keeps working and has improved each month of his rookie season. Beal has been his harshest critic ever since he stepped foot on an NBA arena, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he was quick to find fault in the highest-scoring game of his career.
The Wizards remain the NBA’s only team without a 30-point scorer this season but Beal nearly became the first during their 96-88 loss to the New York Knicks on Friday. Instead, Beal had to settle for 29 points, which still ranks as the most scored by any Wizard this season (the team hasn’t had a player reach 30 since Jordan Crawford had 32 points in a win over Milwaukee on April 18).
“Too many free throws missed by me. I missed two or three, but they were crucial free throws that could’ve had a big impact in the game and I really beat myself up about it,” said Beal, who shot 5 of 7 from the foul line, with both misses coming in the fourth quarter. “But I just got to move on from it.”
That shouldn’t be a problem for Beal, who has made his difficult early adjustment to the NBA a distant memory. Beal recently surpassed John Wall as the Wizards’ leading scorer at 14.2 points per game and has been on a serious tear in his past eight games.
Over that stretch, Beal has scored at least 20 points five times, is averaging 20.8 points on 49.2 percent shooting from the field and 44.7 percent shooting from long distance. Beal has also recorded two double-doubles and displayed versatility and a solid feel for making timely plays – such as his huge offensive rebound in the closing seconds of a win against Houston. He snared 11 rebounds against the Knicks, at times grabbing them over all-star center Tyson Chandler or Amare Stoudemire.
In the first half against New York, Beal made a hard cut through the lane but stopped under the basket when he noticed that Knicks guard J.R. Smith was trying to beat him to the corner and Wall was about to get trapped by Chandler and Raymond Felton. Wall found him inside for an easy, uncontested dunk.
Beal erupted for 12 points in the third quarter, starting his run when he tracked down a loose ball beyond half court with 10 seconds on the shot clock and never appeared rushed as he split Iman Shumpert and Jason Kidd near the foul line, then completed a nifty lefty layup over Carmelo Anthony.
“It’s really just showing,” said Beal, whose previous season-high came when he scored 28 points on Feb. 11 in Milwaukee. “You can see how calm I am and I’m really just starting to be relaxed. I’m not pressuring myself and my teammates do a great job of setting me up to be able to make plays. Coach and my teammates as well, do a great job setting me up and putting me in position to make those plays. My confidence is sky-high, ever since January on.”
Beal made most of his field goals within the flow of the offense, setting up for corner three-pointers but also attacking the basket with Coach Randy Wittman giving him the freedom to do more off the dribble.
“Beal’s kind of created that on his own with the way he’s playing, the way he’s developing,” Wittman said. “So, it’s not necessarily has anything to do with John. I think it’s more Bradley’s development and the things he can do and the comfort level he’s at now doing those things has added me putting the ball in his hands.”
Living up the billing of a franchise building block as the third overall pick, Beal failed to win his third consecutive Eastern Conference rookie of the month award despite leading all rookies in the conference in scoring. Cleveland’s Dion Waiters claimed the honor for the first time. But Beal has bigger goals for himself and won’t let the latest slight deter him.
“I didn’t know I’d be so successful as I am now. At the same time…I expect myself to do this,” Beal said. “Go out and compete every night and just make plays because that’s the type of player I know I can be. I’m blessed to be in this situation, but at the same time this is what my expectations are. Just reaching my goals and achieving them.”