Just when it seemed that the Washington Wizards had enough lingering problems — such as the broken defense since the all-star break — a new complication has emerged.
Suddenly, the team’s top two scorers are finding it difficult to live up to their own standards.
Understand how rare this is for both players. While Beal leads the team with a 23.1 scoring average, with Wall right behind at 22.9 points per game, through 70 games the duo has failed to reach 20 points in the same game only seven times, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Wizards are 2-5 in those games.
“It’s a part of the game,” Wall said. “We ain’t going to be miraculous and make shots all the time.”
On Monday night against the Boston Celtics, Wall took 10 shots, missed six of them and scored just 16. Initially, it seemed as if Beal would carry the load as he blazed the first quarter with a 4-of-6 start, even as he had to bump and wiggle away from premier defender Avery Bradley. Beal’s trio of three-point shots came when he didn’t feel the vise of Bradley. For the rest of the game, he connected on just 2 of 9 shots, finishing with 19 points. (Bradley did not play in the two previous Wizards-Celtics matchups in which Beal scored 35 and 31, respectively).
“When you’re not making shots, you got to do a better job defending,” Wall said, referring to the team-wide shooting issues. “When we’re making shots, we’re a great defensive team. When we’re not making shots, we got to play with that same defensive intensity. I think we have to figure it out and do that. There are going to be games in the playoffs … when you’re not making shots but you still have to defend at a high level and that’s what we have problems with at times.”
On Saturday night in Charlotte, the backcourt combined to shoot 4 of 15 through the first half before Beal somewhat turned it on in the fourth quarter and finished with six made shots — the most of anyone on the team. Wall uncharacteristically blew seven layup attempts, at times hurtling himself at the rim without being rewarded with a whistle, and also missed three looks from beyond the arc. During the Wizards’ worst shooting night of the season (36.7 percent), Wall scored 19 while Beal contributed 18.
Two straight games make for a measly streak, one that can be cast aside as an aberration.
“John and Brad have been terrific all year,” Coach Scott Brooks said after the Wizards’ 110-102 loss to Boston. “They didn’t have a good shooting night, but they will bounce back.”
However two straight games, as a long season nears its merciful end, could mean something more.
In the middle of its slog through March, eight of Washington’s final 12 games will come on the road. Six of those games are against teams currently in the playoff picture, including Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks and a Saturday night road trip kickoff in Cleveland. Even more, the rhythm of the calendar is unrelenting, with a single two-day break between games remaining until the end of the season.
When asked directly if the month of March — in which the Wizards have already played eight games on the road — has affected the team, Beal didn’t want to bow to the excuse but also admitted that it has “a little bit.”
“But we’re still right where we want to be, kind of,” Beal continued. “We want to move up. Nobody wants to lose, nobody likes losing. We eventually got to figure it out. We are running out of games and it’s not going to get any easier. Our schedule gets tougher, so we got to bear down and get some wins.”