OAKLAND, Calif. – Bradley Beal’s offense has had to come in the form of shorter bursts, with his minutes restriction giving him few chances to gain a rhythm and sustain it.
But the positive side of the spaced-out doses of playing time is that Beal — limited to 30 minutes per game by the team’s medical staff as he continues to recover from a stress injury in his right fibula — doesn’t have a chance to sulk or dwell on his struggles, developing a short memory. After a dreadful first half in which he missed 6 of 7 shots on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors, Beal had to once again have “amnesia” in order to help the Wizards come back from a 10-point deficit to win, 88-85, at Oracle Arena.
Beal, who was named Wednesday as one of 18 participants in the NBA Rising Stars challenge on Feb. 14 in New Orleans, scored 18 of his team-high 20 points in the second half. He shot 7 of 12 from the floor and ignited two huge rallies — to start the third quarter and the fourth quarter — for the Wizards.
“He had about as bad a first half as you can have, and that’s the growth of this team,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “Years past, we would have put our heads down when we went 1 for 7 or, ‘I got a wide open layup and I let the ball slip through my hands.’ These guys aren’t doing that. They just run down the other end and that’s what gives you the capability of having a third quarter and a second half the way he did. He just stayed with it and he’s capable of obviously getting hot, and you can’t get hot if you feel sorry for yourself.”
The Wizards came out more determined to get Beal going in the second half and he quickly heated up, scoring nine points during a 14-2 run to start the third period and give his team a 59-51 lead. But the lead wouldn’t last very long, as Beal was forced to sit and the Wizards offense hit the skids.
Martell Webster helped the Wizards enter the fourth quarter ahead 66-65 by hitting a three-pointer. Beal entered the game and picked up where he had left off before sitting as he knocked down three three-pointers to push the Wizards ahead, 75-68, with 9:55 to play.
“Before, I would always get down on myself because all the shots I miss, I feel are easy shots for me to make. Shots I know I’m capable of making,” said Beal. “Whenever I have amnesia, it’s just forget about it. Just continue to shoot, continue to have fun and continue to play the right way. Came out, I was aggressive, got my legs up under me and that was the main thing. That was the biggest problem in the first half.”
Beal was playing so well that when he closed in on the 28-minute mark against the Warriors, Wittman had to decide whether to ride him out for his last two minutes of his mandated restriction or save him for the finish. The decision was a little easier when Beal committed two of his game-high six turnovers in one minute, which allowed the Warriors to get within 77-76 and led Wittman to replace him with Wall with 6:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I felt it coming,” Beal said of his benching. “I blame myself for a few possessions because I turned the ball over twice and they definitely capitalized on one or two of them. Coach took me out and I wasn’t mad about it.”
Beal hasn’t played more than 31 minutes since returning from his injury on Dec. 16 in New York. He has scored at least 20 points in just four of the 22 games under the current setup, with the Wizards winning all of those games.
Wittman has spent a lot of games frequently staring at the stat sheet to monitor Beal’s minutes, which set up a frantic situation in Friday’s win in Phoenix. The coaching staff complained that Beal was giving more minutes than he had played until the situation was resolved. Beal wound up scoring seven of the Wizards’ last eight points in a 101-95 win.
Beal returned to play the final 2:47 against Golden State and missed his last two shots, but he also helped make sure the Klay Thompson didn’t get loose, either. Afterward, Beal suggested that his situation could change when the team returns to Washington on Thursday.
“It is just something that I have learned to deal with for quite some time now,” Beal said. “I have to deal with it for a few more games and hopefully my minutes will bump up next month.”
However many minutes he receives, Beal won’t let a few misses cause him to lose confidence in what his mother, Besta, taught him to do, and one of the gifts that led the Wizards to draft him third overall in 2012.
“I don’t think shooters do,” he said, when asked about losing confidence. “That’s what you’re known for doing, that’s what you’re capable of doing. Especially when your coaches are behind you, your teammates are behind you, continue to encourage you and put in positions to be able to excel, you have to be able to take those shots and shoot them with confidence.”