The best game of Bradley Beal’s young career was unraveling into another defeat for the Washington Wizards when frustration overwhelmed the rookie guard. As he watched Milwaukee Bucks guard Monta Ellis elevate for an inconsequential layup in the game’s final minute on Friday night, Beal was unwilling to offer a free pass and knocked Elllis to the ground with a hard chop of a foul.
Beal then quickly approached Ellis, leaning down to extend his hand and help him up. Bucks guard Brandon Jennings raced in from behind to shove Beal to the ground. Beal hopped up to confront Jennings as both players shouted at each other until Wizards forward Trevor Booker held back Jennings to diffuse the situation.
Both Jennings and Beal were ejected for the final 23.7 seconds of the Wizards’ 101-91 loss at Verizon Center. The ejection soured an otherwise impressive night for Beal, who led five Wizards in double figures with a career-high 22 points but now faces a possible suspension for Saturday’s game in Indiana.
“It was just a foul,” said Beal, who was assessed a flagrant foul-penalty two on the play. “I went for the ball.”
The Wizards (0-4) will have to await word from the league office to find out if Beal will be available when they take on the Pacers. Coach Randy Wittman said he didn’t see the play but added: “We didn’t want to hurt anybody, but you want to play it out. I want our guys to stay aggressive. We don’t want to do anything over the line, though.”
Losing Beal would be a major setback for a Wizards team that is already without John Wall and Nene and has opened a season with four consecutive losses for the second year in row. After scoring just two points in his home debut last Saturday, Beal made a spectacular second impression, opening against the Bucks with a 20-foot jumper and spending the rest of the night attacking the basket and connecting on open jumpers. He even had his first two dunks of the season, exciting the crowd with a two-handed slam in the second half.
“Everybody’s been telling me to be more aggressive,” Beal said. “It went in and I just got in my mood, I just kept pushing and kept attacking, basically.”
Beal’s teammates also came out with purpose. The Wizards’ starters had enough of the slow starts that derailed them in their first two games. Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza had enough of sitting in the fourth quarter.
The Wizards addressed those concerns, with the team scoring the first 12 points of the game and Okafor and Ariza having their best performances since joining the team, but they were still unable to solve their greatest obstacle this season — getting a win. Jan Vesely made a jump-hook to tie the score at 72 late in the third quarter, but the Bucks scored the next 13 points. The Wizards twice got within five in the fourth quarter but could never make a serious threat.
“We rectified that problem that we’ve been having the last three games,” point guard A.J. Price said after scoring 12 points and handing out nine assists. “This game was more frustrating, moreso than the first three, because we should’ve won.”
Ariza admitted earlier in the week that his adjustment to the Wizards has been the lengthiest of his career. He has struggled to find comfort within the offense and confidence about when to shoot or pass.
Against Milwaukee, Ariza didn’t bother thinking about what he was going to do in advance and just played. He scored a season-high 15 points — four more than the 11 he scored in the previous three games combined — and added eight rebounds and four assists. Ariza also connected with Trevor Booker (11 points) for nice alley-oop in the fourth quarter.
Okafor finally appeared in the fourth quarter after watching the previous three final periods from the bench. He scored a season-high 11 points with six rebounds and three blocked shots.
The Wizards’ reserves had delivered in the first three games, with the leading scorer emerging from the bench but Kevin Seraphin’s string of 18 consecutive games in double-figures came to a close on Friday when he was limited to just two points on 1-of-5 field goals. Jordan Crawford, who is still recovering from a sprained left ankle, had eight points.
“That’s been our problem so far. We haven’t been able to put a total team effort together. But we’ll rectify it,” said Price, who will face the team he represented for the first three years of his career on Saturday. “That’s one I definitely want to win. I relayed that to my guys. They already know that. We need a win as a team, so it’s a big game for us.”
Beal is hopeful that he will be around to help, but he was smarting afterward about how the situation escalated. After exchanging words with Jennings (12 points), Beal had a few more for players on the Bucks’ bench before he exited to cheers from supportive fans.
Jennings was “defending his teammate, came up and pushed me, but it’s just all a part of basketball. It’s physical but it is what it is,” Beal said. “I just have to deal with it.”
Crawford thought the whole incident was empty bluster.
“Just a lot of pretending going on. A lot of pretending,” Crawford said.