Bradley Beal doesn’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions. Self-improvement, Beal says, can happen at any point in the year and not simply because the calendar has turned.
Beal’s Washington Wizards teammates might also subscribe to this theory. Instead of waiting until the start of 2018 to turn over a new leaf with their once-flimsy three-point shooting, the Wizards closed out the year with a marked improvement from downtown.
As Washington rallied for a 114-110 New Year’s Eve win over the Chicago Bulls, the team connected on 16 three-pointers. It was the third time in five games in which the Wizards had made at least 16 and the second straight game they tied an franchise mark with 36 attempts from beyond the arc.
“Team basketball. Just moving the ball. Guys making extra passes is all it is,” John Wall said. “We got guys who can make some tough ones, but when you’re moving the ball and just trusting the offense anything can happen.”
Before the recent uptick, Washington had ranked in the lower third of the NBA in three-point attempts per game. However, if the fluctuating lineups at the end of 2017 serve as an indication of a new emphasis on long-distance shooting, then the Wizards will look more like the team that has averaged 32.0 threes over the past three games.
On Sunday, reserve forward Mike Scott returned to rhythm after missing one game because of the birth of his daughter and scored 17 points with a trio of threes while playing crucial minutes in the team’s small lineup. Scott, a 6-foot-9 forward, even logged some time at center in the fourth quarter and took some lumps against Bulls 7-footer Robin Lopez.
“He’s like 7-5. He’s doing hook shots for them,” Scott said. “I can’t block that [stuff].”
Even so, Scott created offensive mismatches, and while forming an athletic front line with Otto Porter Jr. he helped open the floor for Beal to make three game-changing triples in the quarter.
“Obviously, when you have a smaller lineup, you have the ability to have more three-point shooters on the floor,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “A lot of teams are going small, and we’re one of them also. It’s nothing against our bigs, but we just have to keep adjusting. It could be game-to-game. I thought Ian [Mahinmi] was our main guy to give Houston trouble scoring last game and I thought our small ball gave them trouble scoring, especially in that fourth quarter. Mike can battle their bigger players. I know [Robin] Lopez had a couple of post-ups down low, but that’s not how they want to play. Nobody wants to play that way. That’s a low-percentage shot throughout the league.”
Beal made 7 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc overall and scored a game-high 39 points. For a man who doesn’t make resolutions, Beal’s plans for 2018 will look much like last year: Keep shooting.
“Like I always told you guys from the get-go, I might have games where I don’t might make any, and games where I make seven, and games where I make two,” Beal said. “That doesn’t change my confidence. I continue to shoot the same way, with the same mechanics and the same mentality. I believe that every shot is going to go in. I was happy and fortunate that they were falling [Sunday].”