Beal had touched greatness at Capital One Arena, scoring as he never had before, but he would not be able to grab a win from the NBA’s best team.
The Washington Wizards lost, 137-134, in overtime to the Milwaukee Bucks after Beal took over for the second straight night only to fall short again. Beal finished with 55 points — shooting 19 for 33 overall and 8 for 13 from the three-point line — after going for 53 points Sunday in a loss at the Chicago Bulls.
Beal became only the sixth player in NBA history to score 50 or more points on consecutive nights and the first to do so since Kobe Bryant on March 22-23, 2007. But like so many other times this season, Beal’s individual masterpiece came with an “L” attached to it. The Wizards have lost eight of the nine games in which Beal has scored 40 or more points.
“I’m a winner, so you can throw those 55 out with the last 53,” Beal said, repeating the sentiment he shared after the loss to Chicago the night before.
Still, Beal wasn’t pouting. The excitement from Monday’s near-upset and the fight his teammates showed had left him feeling more optimistic.
“We showed heart, man. That’s what it was. For the full 48,” Beal said. “I think we got off to a slow start, and we just clawed back and showed some resilience.”
Washington trailed by as many as 20 points in the third quarter and spent much of the second half aiming to pull off the impossible. Beal, as he has all season, tried to save his team from defeat almost single-handedly.
“[He’s a] special player,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said. “A special player doing everything that he can possibly do to keep putting us in a position to have success.”
Beal checked back into the game with 7:50 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Wizards trailing by 10. He scored his team’s next 17 points, splashing assisted three-pointers, dunking with fury and drilling a midrange jumper over two defenders. When Beal found some breathing room after Moritz Wagner screened Milwaukee guard George Hill, he connected on another three and trimmed Washington’s deficit to 119-116 with 2:16 left in regulation.
The margin was still three with 1:36 to play when Wagner stepped in to a take a charge against Giannis Antetokounmpo, drawing the reigning MVP into his sixth foul. Antetokounmpo finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds in 25 minutes.
The strong defense led to opportunistic offense on the other end, and Beal swished another long-range shot to tie the score at 121 with 1:23 left. By the end of regulation, Beal had scored 22 of the Wizards’ past 24 points.
“He got comfortable,” said Hill, who defended Beal down the stretch. “Getting on him late, after seeing a whole bunch of shots go in, sometimes switching it up doesn’t matter. He just sees that ocean. Even when you are defending at a high level, he made some tough shots.”
Beal put the Wizards ahead by four points with less than two minutes left in overtime, but he couldn’t always do everything by himself. He committed three turnovers in the extra period, the last coming with 43.3 seconds remaining and the score tied. Bucks all-star forward Khris Middleton, who scored 40 points, then made the decisive three-pointer with 31.2 seconds to play, and Milwaukee improved its league-best record to 49-8.
Afterward, Beal regretted his mistakes.
“I had a lot of bad plays down the stretch,” he said. “I could be better, and I got to close out that game.”
The critique was less harsh than after Sunday’s loss to Chicago, when Brooks offered criticism that no professional athlete wants to hear.
“We’re playing soft,” he said.
The rebuke, and a night of self-reflection among the players, clearly had an effect, even if the Wizards (20-36) ultimately suffered their third consecutive loss.
Wizards rookie forward Rui Hachimura defended Antetokounmpo, and while the matchup between the reigning MVP and a first-year player sometimes went about as expected, Hachimura battled.
Antetokounmpo wasted little time before trying the young player with one of his steamrolling drives, but Hachimura slowed him down and forced a pass. Antetokounmpo had his moments — on one early possession, he hooked Hachimura, keeping him behind the play as he snaked into the lane for a nifty reverse layup — but he didn’t take over the game.
Even without a major scoring contribution from Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee went up 71-51 with 8:29 left in the third quarter, and four other Bucks players reached double-digit scoring by the end of the period.
The Wizards could have folded; they were playing without top three-point shooter Davis Bertans because of a knee injury and center Thomas Bryant, who sat out the second night of a back-to-back as he eases back from his foot injury. Instead, Beal nearly carried them to the upset with help from Shabazz Napier, who finished with 27 points.
But a win escaped their grasp.
“In my head, it’s like I was viewing this as a first-round [playoff] matchup if we get there, just kind of our message to them,” Beal said. “We know how tough of a team they are. We know they’re the best team in the league right now, but we’re going to compete with the best of them, and we’re not going to go out without a fight.”
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