Bradley Beal’s frustrating night of sulking and off-target shots was complete when he missed a technical foul shot late in the fourth quarter the Wizards’ 109-102 loss on Friday to the Philadelphia 76ers. He placed both hands atop his head, dropped his chin into his chest, rolled his eyes and had a “what-else-could-go-wrong?” expression on his face.
Beal referred to himself as “a victim” of bad body language on a night in which he missed 14 of 18 shots from the field – and his lone free throw attempt – and finished with just 10 points.
Throughout the game, Beal would hold out his hands to show that he was open, then drop his shoulders if the play went somewhere else. When his shot didn’t fall, Beal lowered his head and was slow to get back on defense. The more he tried to fight through it, the further he fell into quick sand.
“I’m a victim of it. I’m not ashamed to say it,” Beal said, when asked if the bad body language of the players contributed to the loss.
Beal’s second season has gotten off to a slower than expect start. He has missed shots that he usually makes, drifted away from the ball for stretches, and forced the issue in a futile attempt to snap out of his funk. Through the first two games, Beal is averaging 13.5 points but he is shooting just 27.8 percent (10 of 36) from the field.
“It happens in this league when you’re a scorer you’re not going to be on every night,” teammate John Wall said of Beal. “I had a bad game in Detroit. I know he’s going to come in and keep getting his work in. We still believe in him and trust him as our two guard. He’s just got to keep shooting the ball. He’ll get out of this slump. I know it’s tough right now, it’s frustrating because he had a good preseason, but we got 80 games left.”
After tearing up the preseason by averaging 20.7 points on 51 percent shooting, Beal has found that defenses are geared toward stopping him and he hasn’t adjusted. Detroit took away his corner shots by trapping him on the catch and Philadelphia was also aggressive in an attempt to slow him down.
“Preseason, I was hitting everything and now, it’s the total opposite,” Beal said after scoring 10 points on 4-of-18 shooting. “I mean, it is what it is. I just got to stay with it and keep shooting.”
With Wall (back spasms) and Nene (left calf) both questionable for Sunday’s game against the Miami Heat, the Wizards will likely need more from Beal. After the Wizards’ season-opening loss to Detroit, Wittman said Beal will have to find a way to adjust to teams playing him more physically.
“That’s the next step in his progression. If we can get him a quality 18 shots, I’m going to trust that he’ll knock down a lot of them,” he said.
But the struggles of the 20-year-old guard are the least of the concerns for Wittman with his team starting the season 0-2. “I’m not worried about that. That’s where I think they’re worrying. This has nothing to do with our offense,” Wittman said. “We’re averaging 102 points. This team has struggled to score 100 points per game [in] years past. It has nothing to do with Bradley Beal shooting 4 for 18 or whoever it is. Bradley, had a tough game, had nothing to do with it. That’s not the reason we lost.”
Wittman blamed the Wizards’ struggles on an inconsistent defensive effort, predicated on how well the team shoots.
“If we struggle a little bit offensively, we play zero defense and your offense can’t run your defense. It has to be the other way around,” Wittman said. “Have a bad shooting night – miss six, seven, shots in a row as a team – we just let it suck every bit of energy out from us. That’s fixable. The good thing, we haven’t really changed anything. It’s not like we stuck in a new system defensively that it’s going to take time to adjust to what we’re doing.”
Beal agreed with Wittman’s assessment and also believes the team has plenty of time to rectify its problems. “We didn’t get back at all on defense. The offensive end, and us not having success on that end, affects our defense. It did and it shouldn’t,” he said. “We’ve got 80 more games. It’s a long year and we have a quick turnaround. Coming up, we have Miami so hopefully we will be able to turn it around.”