Bradley Beal’s pride was stung, as Mike Dunleavy made jumper after jumper in the first half of Friday’s Game 3 loss to the Chicago Bulls. The frustration led Beal to take an atypical means to motivate himself: by talking trash about Dunleavy in a halftime television interview.
When asked how Dunleavy scored 16 first-half points, Beal responded, “I take all the blame for all the points he has, and I guarantee he won’t score in the second half.”
Beal must’ve had his fingers crossed, because Dunleavy scored 19 more points in the final 24 minutes to lead the Bulls’ win. After his bold comment backfired, Beal took a different approach to Dunleavy in Game 4 and decided to shut down the Bulls swingman with his play instead of his mouth.
Dunleavy was limited to just six points in the Wizards’ 98-89 victory Sunday, and Beal explained how the team was able to contain one of Chicago’s few offensive threats. “I didn’t say anything, for one,” Beal said with a laugh.
Beal also was more aggressive in his pursuit of Dunleavy, getting more physical to prevent the ease with which Dunleavy broke through screens and closing out much quicker. The result was that the Wizards were able to make good on his vow to shut out Dunleavy for an entire half, even though it was two days later and in the first 24 minutes of Sunday’s game.
“I took it pretty personal the way [Dunleavy] had  points on us last game, and I guarded him the majority of the game. I definitely took that matchup personally,” Beal said. “I think, me and everybody else who guarded him did a tremendous job of not letting him get any open looks or we made it as difficult as possible on him. Yeah, he’s going to make some shots, but we need to make it tough on him. We did a great job of that.”
The Wizards put Beal mostly on Dunleavy, but Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster also took turns making sure that he wouldn’t duplicate a performance in which Dunleavy made a Bulls franchise record eight three-pointers.
“We’ve got to give credit to the bigs, who helped us out a lot, showing on the screens,” said Beal, who also scored 18 points. “It was just a personal grudge that we took because he killed us last game. We wouldn’t let that happen again.”
The extra attention helped the Wizards limit Dunleavy to just two three-point attempts, and he missed both. Dunleavy had made at least one three-pointer in each of the first three games, including three in Game 1. He jammed his thumb in the second half of Game 4, but will play Tuesday.
“Yeah, there was more of an alertness,” Dunleavy said. “Look, it was tough getting shots off the other night; it’s been tough all series. They’ve done a good job.”
Dunleavy’s Game 3 eruption was indicative of an overall defensive breakdown by the Wizards. Washington’s first two victories came as the result of a focused and committed effort on defense.
With Nene out, the Wizards played as if they understood that offense alone wouldn’t carry them. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead and held the Bulls to 6-of-20 shooting in the first quarter. Chicago also committed 16 turnovers, which the Wizards converted into 29 points.
The Bulls entered the series as the NBA’s lowest-scoring team but had averaged in the first three games. Chicago reached triple digits for just the second time in six games in Friday’s 100-97 win in Game 3.
“We just focus on playing defense, we’re not worried about our offense and just taking care of the ball and playing defense, we feel like we’ll be fine,” John Wall said. “That was the key coming into this game. We felt like in Game 3 we didn’t play our defense that we played in Game 1 and 2 and went over it yesterday in practice and came out and did a great job of just challenging those guys and making them take tough shots.”