CLEVELAND – Bradley Beal travels a longer distance than any player in the NBA at 2.9 miles per game, according to NBA player tracking information provided by SportVU cameras. Beal also leads the league in minutes played at an even 40 per game.
A night after scoring 17 second-half points to help the Wizards defeat Minnesota, Beal logged another 41 minutes and scored 26 points while matching his career highs with six three-pointers and eight assists in the Wizards’ 98-91 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. If fatigue played any role in his momentary fourth-quarter meltdown on Wednesday in Cleveland — where he had three turnovers, two fouls and shot an air ball during an 11-0 run by Kyrie Irving — Beal wouldn’t let it defeat him. He still found a way to avoid disaster when he came around a curl near the foul line, took a pass from Nene and buried a clutch jumper.
“It’s pretty tough, whenever we’re playing the majority of the minutes,” Beal said, when asked of the burden of the Wizards’ starters. “Whenever you’re on the second end of a back to back, it’s always mind over matter and we always have to continue to push.”
Beal has avoided getting run down with rest and the occasional ice bath, but more time on the floor has also given him more confidence to produce. In his past three games, Beal had scored at least 25 points and is averaging 26.3 points. His overall shooting percentage over that stretch hasn’t been great (43.9), but Beal has been lethal from beyond the three-point line, connecting on 12 of 19 (63.2 percent) attempts from long distance.
“I’m just being more comfortable and being more confident,” Beal said. “Coach put me in great situations to create for myself and create for my team and that helps as well. It’s not just all me, I definitely have to give credit to my teammates and my coach as well.”
Opposing defenses have been focusing more on Beal and formulating game plans intent on shutting him down. That hasn’t stopped Beal from averaging a team-high 21.2 points, an increase of more than seven from his rookie season. Cleveland reserve Matthew Dellavedova smothered him in the second half and Cavaliers tried to deny him the both in the past two meetings. Other teams have tried similar tactics.
“They are a lot more aggressive with me,” Beal said. “Trying to push me, get my mind out of it more than anything. They feel like if they’re physical with me, I’ll throw a fit. They are trying anything to get under my skin and it’s something I have to continue to fight through. … Don’t feel as though I have to take the pressure on myself, because it’s 14 other guys on this team. I can’t take all the pressure on myself. I still have other great teammates who are able to step up as well.”
Beal is shooting 50 percent (33 of 66) from long distance this season and credits the presence of John Wall with giving him more open looks. “When John is out there, it makes life easier. All I have to do is run to an open spot and he’ll find me somehow,” he said.
Beal’s marksmanship has garnered national acclaim as well, especially after TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley –- a notorious Wizards hater –- recently claimed that Beal and Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson were the only players that he wanted to take a shot with the game on the line. Barkley still didn’t back off after fellow TNT analyst Kenny Smith made a case for Stephen Curry.
“I like Steph Curry,” Barkley said, “but Bradley Beal and Klay Thompson, them boys are both going to be All Stars in the next couple of years.”
Beal said he is comfortable with all of increased attention. “It’s something I embrace. It’s definitely humbling when people recognize, you’re doing pretty well in the season, although I still think I have a lot to improve on and we have a lot to improve on as a team, and it’s great that teams notice who we are and what we’re capable of doing and that’s a sign of respect at the same time.”