Whether it was simply the law of averages, the preparations for the three-point shootout, the presence of his former AAU teammate Ben McLemore or a combination of all three, Bradley Beal re-discovered his shooting stroke on Sunday against the Sacramento Kings – and his timing couldn’t have been better.
With the Wizards letting another big lead slip away at home, Beal drained three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to thwart the Kings’ rally and help his team ease into a 93-84 victory. Beal made 4 of 5 three-pointers in the win — the sixth time this season that Beal made at least four three-pointers in a game – and finished with 16 points and a team-high five assists.
“It was good to be able to get back into a rhythm, knock down a few threes, knock down some shots period,” Beal said. “Great finds by teammates and just shot them with confidence.”
Beal had struggled with his shot during the first four games of the Wizards’ homestand, combining to shoot 32.2 percent (19 of 59) from the field. And in his previous five games, Beal had shot just 20 percent (3 of 15) from beyond the three-point arc.
In Friday’s 115-113 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Beal scored just nine points on 4-of-15 shooting and missed a fastbreak layup in the fourth quarter that proved to be costly. He made his only three-point attempt against Cleveland but felt the need to sharpen up his form for the three-point shootout after Saturday’s practice.
With music blaring, Beal worked on picking up balls from the rack in order to get comfortable with the timing and gain a rhythm. The more he shot, the more comfortable he felt, and Beal finally walked off the floor after knocking down five of his final six shots, including the money ball.
The extra work appeared to give him more focus against the Kings, but he was also excited to go up against McLemore, a fellow St. Louis native, for the first time in his career. McLemore has had his share of obstacles to overcome on his way to the NBA and Beal has witnessed the journey from hardscrabble beginnings to being one of the league’s best rookies.
“It was a cool experience,” Beal said of facing McLemore. “Just knowing how far he came, and how far we both came together. Now just him accomplishing his goals and dreams. To play against him was definitely fun. I am definitely looking forward to many more years to come.”
McLemore’s familiarity with Beal didn’t help much in the fourth quarter, when he twice decided to help on defense and left Beal open for those three-pointers that pushed the Wizards’ lead up to 88-77.
“I felt as though those are big shots, but that’s something we’ve got to stay away from. We had them by like 17 or so, and we let them get back too close,” Beal said. “As long as we get the win. Yeah, we’d like to learn from what we did wrong, but you got to enjoy the win at the same time.”
Beal is hoping that the Wizards (25-25) will keep it going with road games in Memphis and Houston. “We have to get these last two before all-star break. We know these are definitely two crucial games, and everybody sees it. So we definitely have to get these two, take a nice little break, and then come back aggressive from the start,” Beal said, adding that the team is going to need “consistency from everybody. Just making sure that we are mentally focused each game, we’re prepared no matter who we are playing. We have to come out with the same energy, same mindset each game, and focus on us, and what we need to do in order to win.”
Though Beal had problems with his shot in the past week, the second-year shooting guard has had at least five assists in three of his past four games. He is averaging 4.8 assists in his past 11 games, matching his career high with eight on two occasions. Beal realizes, though, that the Wizards are still counting on him to shoot.
“I just need to be a little more consistent. My confidence is still there, it’s just the ball wasn’t falling in,” Beal said. “It’s always great to see a few go in.”