Against the Cavaliers, he dominated in 29 efficient minutes, making 15 of 22 from the field. Officials still were reluctant to give him the benefit of the doubt when he drove to the basket — he went to the line just twice — but he led the Wizards (15-29) to a win over a lesser team, something he failed to do last week in Chicago, a loss that rankled him.
He and the Wizards would not be denied Thursday — even after landing in Cleveland after 4 that morning. The Wizards outplayed their hosts and built a 20-point lead, with role players Davis Bertans and Ish Smith scoring 17 points each to provide support for Beal. The Wizards shot 55.3 percent.
“We played about as hard as you can play last night, and we backed it up again,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought our guys came back tonight. It wasn’t easy. I’m tired right now. I’m exhausted, and I didn’t have to play, but our guys battled. Brad is banged up, but he’s competing. He’s giving our team a chance to win.”
On Thursday, the NBA announced the starters and captains for the 2020 All-Star Game. While there were no surprises, with superstars LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo being named captains, Beal emerged as an unlikely favorite with his peers.
In the weighted voting, Beal finished eighth among Eastern Conference guards but only placed that low because fans accounted for 50 percent to determine starters. In the players vote, which accounts for 25 percent, Beal was second behind Boston’s Kemba Walker. In total, Beal received 70 votes from the players. Beal’s numbers had the highest difference between the fan and player votes.
“Oh, it’s cool. It’s definitely respect for sure,” Beal said. “That’s why I always feel like the players and coaches should have a higher, more stronger percentage of the votes than fans, but to each his own.”
Entering Thursday’s game, Beal ranked sixth in the league in scoring (27.5 points). He also was one of three Eastern Conference players averaging at least 25 points and five assists (Antetokounmpo and Atlanta’s Trae Young, both named all-star starters, are the others).
“I know he’s an all-star. The league knows he’s an all-star. Every coach knows he’s an all-star,” Brooks said. “He’s been double-teamed every single game . . . and if he wasn’t considered an all-star, he wouldn’t be double-teamed.”
By the third quarter against the Cavaliers (12-33), Beal was on his way to another big scoring night that also included a fair amount of defense.
At the 6:37 mark, Beal braced himself as Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson barreled into him. Beal took the charge and sold it by falling and splaying his body on the floor as if he had been struck by a train. Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, a five-time all-star, stood over him and pretended to resuscitate Beal.
The poll results didn’t reveal whether Love had voted for Beal, but this playful moment was also a sign of respect.
Later in the game, Beal completed his work in burying the Cavaliers.
By the time Beal returned to the court with 7:17 remaining in the game, Cleveland had trimmed Washington’s lead to 105-95. But on his first offensive possession, Beal drilled a step-back three-pointer despite taking contact from the defender.
Beal demonstrated both his skill and, a bit later, his strength when he took Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman down low. Osman has four inches and more than 20 pounds on Beal, but the size difference didn’t matter when Beal scooped a layup over him to push the lead back to 15. As he jogged back on defense, Beal held his hand low toward the floor to indicate that Osman was too little to guard him.
After the game, Beal revealed his all-star ballot. The player who topped Beal’s list? Himself.
“[Players] compete against me every night. I would say the same thing about anybody else who I voted for,” Beal said, explaining why he believes his game resonates more with the players than fans. “We know firsthand who’s good. We know firsthand who’s an all-star. We know firsthand who’s a bitch to deal with night in and night out. So fans, it’s just a popularity contest.”