Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal made his ninth three-pointer and raced downcourt, turning to face the Capital One Arena fans sitting courtside as he let out a yell. For the second consecutive night, Beal was the engine for a team clinging to fleeting playoff hopes, and Saturday — unlike the previous night — his heroics did not go to waste.
Beal had his second straight 40-point game, leading Washington to a 135-128 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. He made a career-high nine three-pointers on 12 attempts.
Beal, who came out hot with 19 points in the first 16 minutes, has five games of 40 or more points this season, tying Charlotte’s Kemba Walker for the most in the Eastern Conference.
Beal became the first player in franchise history to have at least 40 points, five rebounds and five assists on back-to-back nights.
“I didn’t sleep well. . . . I was mad all night,” Beal said as he reflected on Friday’s close loss to Charlotte. “I woke up at 6, been up all day just thinking about the game from [Friday], and I just knew how important it was to get one tonight, no matter what it took.”
Washington (30-40), which has 12 games remaining, moved three games behind eighth-place Miami for the final playoff spot in the East. Orlando (32-38) and Charlotte (31-37) are essentially tied for ninth.
“We are not out of it until the end of the year comes and the last game is done and over with, so we are going to keep fighting and pushing,” Beal said.
The Wizards also got a key piece of their rotation back: Guard Tomas Satoransky was in the starting five after exiting the second quarter of Friday’s loss with a possible concussion. He appeared to be fine against the Grizzlies, scoring 15 points to go with seven assists and six rebounds.
The Wizards received another injury scare to start the third quarter when Beal was involved in a hard collision with Memphis’s Jonas Valanciunas. Beal, driving for a layup, hit the floor hard on his back, causing a hush to fall over the arena. But he popped back up and proceeded to hit a three-pointer on the Wizards’ next possession.
“If I was as good as him and I am 12 for 17, I’m jacking up at least 10 more shots,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said with a laugh. “They are going to have to take me out of the game because I am shooting too much. He was barely hitting the rim on his threes, and that is what he does, man. He’s special.”
Even with Beal’s red-hot night, the game stayed close through the second half, with Washington clinging to a 105-103 lead entering the fourth quarter after a rim-rattling dunk by Thomas Bryant to beat the third-quarter buzzer.
Beal started the final quarter on the bench, but the Wizards still led 114-112 when he returned with 7:41 remaining. He picked up where he left off, scoring almost at will.
Beal started fast, making five of his first six shots in the first quarter and scoring 16 points in the first 10 minutes. Jabari Parker provided a spark off the bench, scoring 11 points in his first 13 minutes. Parker finished with 20 points, and Bobby Portis chipped in 18.
“[Beal] creates so much for himself and other people, he is definitely a threat, so we are going to ride that to the Wells Fargo,” Parker said.
By halftime, Memphis held a 71-69 advantage after a perfectly timed floater at the buzzer by guard Mike Conley, who had a team-high 28 points and 12 assists. Valanciunas tallied 22 points, and Avery Bradley had 21.
Despite some big scoring nights for the Grizzlies, Beal credited Washington’s defense down the stretch as a reason for the victory.
“I really wanted this game,” he said, “so I just made sure I was locked in and led the team.”
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