Wizards’ Bradley Beal delivers in the fourth quarter again

March 10, 2014
epa04116360 Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (C) goes to the basket between Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova of Turkey (L) and Milwaukee Bucks center Zaza Pachulia of Georgia (R) in the first half of their NBA game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, 08 March 2014. EPA/TANNEN MAURY CORBIS OUT MI And I’ve been waiting for this moment…for a couple of weeks. (EPA/TANNEN MAURY)

MILWAUKEE – Bradley Beal got the perfect pass right in his kitchen, a little bit of time, and shot the ball in rhythm, resulting in a well-executed play that helped the Wizards leave Milwaukee with a 114-107 victory over the Bucks on Saturday at Bradley Center.

Beal’s three-pointer provided the decisive points, but he knows that the shot wouldn’t have been possible if John Wall didn’t have the vision to spot him in the right corner or if Trevor Ariza hadn’t run to seal off Brandon Knight, giving him a clear view of the rim and a few seconds to release it.

“John did a great job of just finding me. Trev and the bigs did a great job of screening and I just shot the ball with confidence,” Beal said. “I definitely didn’t do it by myself. I’ve got to give credit to them as well.”

The Wizards relied on Beal throughout the fourth quarter in Milwaukee and, as he has done previously in New York and Phoenix, the 20-year-old second-year guard kept repaying their trust with huge buckets. Beal shot 4 of 7 and scored 12 of his 23 points in the final period to help the Wizards avoid a colossal collapse, after allowing a 28-point lead get chopped down to three points against the team with the league’s worst record.

“That’s what we need him to do,” Ariza said. “That’s the way our offense works. For him to hit those shots to seal the deal was good for us.”

Beal is averaging 17 points per game this season – which ranks second to Wall (19.7) – but he actually leads the Wizards in the fourth quarter, averaging 5.1 points per game. In total, Beal has scored 267 points in the fourth quarter this season – the most in any period by 58 points – and that accounts for 29.7 percent of the 900 points that he has scored through 53 games. He actually shots better from the field in the first quarter, when he connects on 43.1 percent of his shots from the field (78-181) and 50 percent from three-point range (28 for 56). But Beal takes more shots and makes more trips to the foul line in the final period, displaying a desire to make plays with the game on the line.

“I guess I become more aggressive and I turn it on with the flip of a switch,” Beal said. “Whenever the fourth quarter comes around, I guess I focus in more because that’s the time that games are mostly won. Hopefully, I can continue to do that moving forward and continue to have a good all around game.”

In his return from a stress injury in his right leg on Dec. 16, Beal scored a season-high 14 fourth-quarter points and made the decisive layup with six seconds remaining to lead the Wizards to a 102-101 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Beal also scored the Wizards’ final eight points, including the decisive three-pointer, in a 101-95 win against the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 24 at US Airways Center. He missed a three-pointer that could’ve forced overtime the next night in Salt Lake City.

Since then, Beal hasn’t really been in position to play hero. Wall nailed a game-winning three-pointer against Golden State and Nene recorded a game-winning dunk against the New Orleans Pelicans. In games in which the Wizards either led or trailed by three points in last three minutes, Wall leads the Wizards in points scored with 45 while Beal is second with 29, despite playing 26 fewer minutes and five fewer games than Wall in those situations.

When the opportunity came for him to make plays after the Bucks got within 104-101 with 2:13 remaining, Beal was anxious to seize it. Beal took a pass from Wall, drove down the lane for a layup then took another pass from Wall before burying the crushing three-pointer.

“It’s good to be able to be back in that situation,” Beal said. “Get my confidence up a big moving forward and it’s for the benefit of the team.”

Though he was pleased to help the Wizards win for the eighth time in nine games, Beal was disappointed that the team needed some big shots in the final minutes after building such a huge first-half lead. “This should’ve been a game, like Coach [Randy Wittman] said, Me, John, Trev, all the starters should’ve played 20 minutes,” Beal said. “We’ve got to learn from this game, to have that killer instinct and to be able to go out and put a team away.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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