Bradley Beal will be the second-youngest starter in the NBA playoffs, only holding seniority over Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. But unlike the player selected one spot ahead of him in the 2012 NBA draft, Beal — the Wizards‘ second-leading scorer — will be relied upon more heavily to help his team advance in the first round.
Beal can’t use any past experiences to prepare him for his virgin postseason journey; the one-and-done knockout tournaments that he played in high school and college don’t compare to intensity and sustained focused required to beat a team four times in a best-of-seven series.
Surprisingly, though, when Beal asked the Wizards’ more seasoned veterans for advice on how to prepare for the biggest stage of his young career, he basically heard that he should approach it as if he’s a kid.
“The biggest thing they told me is have fun,” Beal said. “For me and this whole organization, how long it took to get here is a big accomplishment for us. On top of that, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game and be focused, be ready to go because it’s the first team to four. I’m just going to continue to keep my same routine ad have the same focus and mental approach I had all year. Just know that it’s something bigger that we’re playing for. Just take every game to heart.”
The Chicago Bulls didn’t allow Beal to score more than 14 points in any of their three regular season meetings, but he connected on 50 percent of his field goal attempts (19 of 38). Beal expects the Bulls to be more physical and attempt to force him into taking less desirable shots in the playoffs but embraces the challenge.
“You should love pressure,” Beal said. “You should be confident in those situations. Just knowing when the crowd is always against you, you should always just try to make them shut up. Just come out with the mentality that you’re going to try play for your team, try to play for yourselves. No matter who we’re playing against, we’ve got to be confident going in.”
Given his performances in one of the NBA’s most heralded venues — Beal hit two game-winners against the New York Knicks at Madison Square — he isn’t one to cower when the lights get brighter.
“Nothing like Madison Square but playing at the United Center is huge,” Beal said. “It’s probably one of the biggest arenas, so it’s definitely going to get loud and probably can’t hear yourself think. But it’s going to be fun. I’m definitely looking forward to it. It’s two great teams going against each other.”
Despite closing out the regular season with four straight wins to move in the fifth seed, the Wizards haven’t been picked by many pundits to pull out an upset. “We’re confident, everybody is in high spirits,” Beal said. “We’re rolling, man. It’s gut-check time and everybody is bearing down and really bought in and is focused on what we need to do in order to win.
“There’s always going to be adversity and we’re going to definitely get tested. First game we’ll see how we are mentally and how we can deal with the atmosphere and if we can stay composed and everything like that. We’re definitely confident, we’re ready to go.”
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