MILWAUKEE — The three-pointers, they’re beginning to pile up into one big stack of memories for a veteran like Bradley Beal. Through 341 games played in the NBA stretching over five-plus years, Beal has made plenty of big shots in his career, and when asked to recall the most meaningful, he gets stumped. But Monday offered an easy choice to place atop his mind’s mantel as Beal made the 700th three-pointer in his career, becoming the youngest player in league history to reach that mark.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment. I’m proud of it,” Beal said after scoring 23 points in the Washington Wizards’ 99-88 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. “There’s a lot of guys who shoot a lot of threes in the league and a lot of guys who make a lot, so I’m in good company. At the same time, I always feel like I’ve got more to do, so I want to continue to see how far I can get. Be up there with Reggie [Miller] and Ray [Allen] and all those guys who set the milestones for us guys nowadays. It’s a great accomplishment, and I just want to keep rolling.”
The names Miller and Allen are synonymous with lights-out shooting, but Beal first joined, and now ranks above, the pantheon of today’s three-point makers that includes Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith. At 24 years and 145 days old, Beal reached the 700 milestone almost two months earlier than Durant (24-198 days), and his coach believed it should’ve happened sooner.
“That’s pretty cool,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said upon hearing about Beal’s accomplishment. “He’s a great shooter. I think he should’ve got there probably 25 games ago because he doesn’t shoot enough threes. I keep telling him you should be averaging nine to 10 a game.”
According to basketball-reference.com, on Sunday Beal scored 25 or more points for the 69th time in his career, more than Allen or Stephen Curry had before their 25th birthdays. However, the latest young man’s milestone held great significance for Beal because today’s league has grown younger with players entering the NBA at 18 years old, while the game has evolved around three-point shooters.
As one who started his career with a reputation as a shooter, Beal wanted the honor once he learned about it earlier in the day. He admitted this led to some eagerness through the first half. Though the Wizards led 47-46 at halftime and Beal had made five of seven attempts from within the arc, he missed both looks from three.
“I kind of pressed a little bit earlier in the game,” Beal said. “Trying to get one off and trying to make one, but when I did it was an amazing feeling for sure.”
That wave of achievement hit Beal at the 10:57 mark of the third quarter. Thanks to a screen by center Marcin Gortat, who held off Beal’s defender Tony Snell as well as his own with one move, Beal popped free beyond the left arc, and muscle memory took over.
“My mom taught me to shoot when I was a pup, a baby,” Beal said of his mother, Besta. “So just having the same mechanics, and just practicing and perfecting it each and every single day to where it’s second nature. Sometimes I just close my eyes and shoot it. That’s kind of how my mentality is.”
On the Bucks’ telecast, a faint voice could be heard calling Beal’s shot “short,” but it landed exactly where he had intended — with the unmistakable sound of a ball ripping through nylon. John Wall has heard that sound often as Beal’s teammate through his entire Wizards career, and he credited Beal’s work ethic for creating the touch.
“He puts a lot of work into it,” Wall said. “That’s one thing I could say. He’s a guy that puts in work before practice, after practice, after shoot-around, those types of things. He deserves it. Congratulations to him. I told him that right when I came in [the locker room] and seen it. He’s got a lot more milestones to reach.”
After thinking about it hard, Beal finally came up with one three-pointer that stood out. It happened in the Wizards’ 2014 Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Indiana Pacers. Playing at home, Beal took a three from the top of the key and the swish was drowned out by the roar of the fans.
“I just remember the crowd just going bananas off that three,” Beal said, but he added with a smile: “I don’t know, it’s a lot of them. So many I don’t even remember.”
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