The volume for Bradley Beal’s all-star candidacy continues to rise. During the Washington Wizards’ 114-110 win over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, highlights of his season flashed across the Capital One Arena scoreboard to remind fans to vote for Beal. Teammates and even Coach Scott Brooks have doubled as Beal’s publicity machine.
Mike Scott explained that Beal would never drop a salty word — as Scott used during a postgame interview — because all-stars must keep it clean, and Brooks described the “blessing” of having a backcourt such as John Wall and Beal.
“I’ve been saying this — going on the second year now — that Brad’s an all-star,” Brooks said. “I thought he was an all-star last year.”
While the Wizards campaign on his behalf, Beal continues to make a case with his play. On Sunday, he flirted with a triple-double (39 points, nine assists and nine rebounds) and carried the team to a fourth-quarter comeback win.
Beal poured in 15 straight points for Washington during a stretch in the fourth quarter. But in a game that showed Beal as the two-way, all-around player, he did more than just score.
In that final frame, Beal set up Scott for a baseline jumper that pulled Washington ahead 94-93, its first lead since the 9:53 mark of the first quarter. Later, Beal picked off Bulls point guard Kris Dunn during a critical defensive stand.
He finished 16 for 29 from the field, including 7 for 13 from beyond the arc, and became only the second NBA player this season to record at least 39 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in a game. (Russell Westbrook had a game with 40, nine and 14.)
Afterward, Beal wasn’t dwelling on his all-star numbers. Instead, he had regrets — pointing to a pair of missed free throws with 19 seconds remaining that could have iced the game.
“I’m a little upset about this game. I missed free throws. I could’ve had one assist and one more rebound,” Beal said, half smiling.
When the second free throw rimmed out, John Wall came up with the rebound, was fouled and sealed the win by hitting both free throws. Wall finished with 21 points and nine assists as the Wizards (21-16) earned their seventh win in 10 games.
“Just how hard we’re playing,” Beal said. “Us moving the ball on offense, defending, all five guys rebounding, having high rebound numbers and our assist numbers being high. When we do that, we’re a really good team because we have guys who can shoot the ball beyond amazing.”
The Wizards curbed a season-long trend in falling to teams with losing records. Despite the traps set by Chicago (13-23), which has won 10 of its past 13, Washington recovered from a 12-point deficit and matched the Bulls’ hustle in the final period.
“We played hard. I know much has been said, and it should be said — we were 9-10 going into this game,” Brooks said, referring to his team’s record against sub-.500 teams. “This team does have a record that they’re not happy with, but they’re much different now.”
The Bulls started the season as the model of dysfunction. During training camp, Bobby Portis knocked out Nikola Mirotic, and the team opened with a league-worst 3-20 record. But from that dumpster fire, the Bulls have righted the ship, moving the ball and thriving in the new-age game of launching threes while still playing inside to draw fouls. More than that, the Bulls look like they’re having fun.
Following the starters’ introductions, players created a frenetic mosh pit while a teammate raced around the circle, appearing to play a quick game of duck, duck, goose. This energy and camaraderie transferred to the first quarter, and the Wizards provided little resistance.
Lauri Markkanen moved freely, and Dunn froze defenders on the perimeter. In all, nine players contributed to Chicago’s 38-point quarter, and the team carried this offensive thrust into the second frame.
“We had our lapses throughout the game where we didn’t play hard,” Wall said, “and that’s the reason they had a lead early on and were winning the majority of the game.”
Washington surrendered 63 points in the opening half and returned to the locker room with a four-point deficit. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when Washington showed its best energy. And Beal, who played a season-high 44:55, led the way.
“It’s all about winning games and if you win games and you play for each other, individual awards come,” Brooks said. “If you focus on that, you’re focused on the wrong things. I’ve talked to Brad many, many times, and he has not mentioned all-star to me.”