That pledge, which Beal reiterated Saturday after the Wizards’ sixth win in their past seven home games and their second straight overall, wasn’t simply said out of emotion.
When asked if he has been paying attention to the Eastern Conference playoff picture, Beal said: “I sure have. I wouldn’t have said it if I wasn’t.”
Beal added, “I love our chances.”
As strange as it may seem, the 17-31 Wizards still have a chance of sneaking into the postseason. Washington holds a 4.6 percent chance of securing eighth in the East and a 0.7 percent shot of seventh place, according to basketball-reference.com.
After two consecutive road losses last week, Washington returned home in 12th place out of 15 teams. But after a pair of wins at Capital One Arena, including the 113-107 victory over the seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, the Wizards leapfrogged into 10th place. With 34 games remaining, Washington is 3½ games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed.
Though Beal said he was keenly aware of the movement up the standings, other Wizards want to focus simply on incremental progress.
“We can’t think about it like that. We just got to think about one game at a time,” forward Davis Bertans said about watching the standings.
“We are not looking at that. I mean, we are not,” Coach Scott Brooks echoed. “But we want to keep playing good basketball. We know we have a lot of areas to improve in. We have got a lot of things that we have to get better [at], and in order to compete with the high-level teams, we have to do that consistently."
The Wizards’ defensive tendencies top that list. During the previous two road losses in Atlanta and Milwaukee, the team played “horrific” games, Brooks said, and surrendered more than 150 points each night. The Wizards are last in the league in defensive rating (116.9), and the numbers reflect poorly on the team’s most-used players such as Beal, who leads the team at 35.3 minutes per game and has a 120.3 defensive rating.
Among the 14 NBA players who average 35 minutes or more, Beal’s defensive rating ranks last.
“It’s like all of us. We’re not very good defensively right now. We need to get better. Brad is a big part of it, but it’s all of us,” Brooks responded when asked to evaluate Beal’s individual defense this season. “Myself, our coaches and our players … everybody, we all have to be a better defensive team.”
Against Brooklyn, Beal spent most of his time on the defensive end matched up against Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie. Though Harris made 3 of the 4 shots he attempted against Beal, Dinwiddie went 1 for 5 in the matchup. In the fourth quarter, the Wizards played their strongest defense as a team — with Beal, Bertans, Thomas Bryant, Troy Brown Jr. and Ish Smith on the floor — and held Brooklyn without a made shot in the final 4½ minutes.
“I feel like we have a chance to compete for eighth,” Bryant said. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, like we did [Saturday], we’ll be in a good spot.”
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