Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal needed rest in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Orlando Magic, but respect must be paid. So when teammate Jabari Parker rose and hit a sky hook, Beal dropped his towel, climbed to his feet and reenacted the play for the rest of his teammates on the bench. He turned and laughed with them in a light moment in a pressure-cooker of a game.
“Whenever he’s getting into the paint, great things happen,” Beal said of Parker, who was at the forefront of a crucial 100-90 win that kept the Wizards’ flickering playoff hopes alive.
Parker finished with 19 points and fellow reserve Thomas Bryant added 21 as Washington’s bench chipped in 59 points to support Beal, who had a game-high 23 points to go with seven assists.
“We’re always confident in them,” Beal said of the reserves. “They have been playing really well the last couple games on both ends of the floor, sustaining leads, maintaining leads and even creating some leads.”
The Wizards (29-39) are in the 11th spot in the Eastern Conference standings, just 3 1/2 games behind the eighth and final playoff spot with 15 games remaining. Orlando (31-38) is in ninth place.
The Wizards, Magic and Charlotte Hornets (30-37) are chasing Miami (32-35) for the final playoff spot in the East. Wednesday’s win secured the tiebreaker over Orlando should the teams finish tied for the final postseason berth.
The teams’ desperation was clear from the start, with nine lead changes within the first nine minutes. Once the Wizards’ reserves checked in, the complexion of the game changed.
There was guard Troy Brown Jr. driving and dunking through the heart of Orlando’s defense, and making another no-look pass to center Bryant for another dunk.
Bryant made four of his first six shots once he came into the game and grabbed six rebounds, quickly bouncing back from one of his worst performances of the season in a win over Sacramento earlier this week. He had sought Brooks out after practice Tuesday to let him know how frustrated he was with his recent play and to seek advice.
“I just wanted to see what I could clear up, help the team out, help myself out and just help him out, as well,” Bryant said. “I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, so I try to make everything perfect. He told me to just relax and play the game.”
It worked for Bryant, who made nine of his 12 shots, including both his three-point attempts and grabbed 10 rebounds in 25 minutes.
Parker made five of his first six shots and guard Chasson Randle, who has shuttled between the Wizards and their G-League affiliate all season, hit his first three. All told, Washington’s bench scored 33 of the team’s 61 points in the first half as the Wizards took and eight-point lead; that group shot 15 for 21 and outscored Orlando’s bench by 23.
“We played with a lot of energy tonight as a bench,” said Randle, who had played with the organization’s G-League team in Washington on Tuesday night before being called back up Wednesday.
Beal appreciated the work of the reserves, but he did his share of the heavy lifting, including hitting a step-back jumper on the final play of the third quarter to give his team a 76-74 lead. While Beal finished 10 for 22 from the field, Washington’s other four starters finished with just 18 points on a combined 6-for-30 shooting.
“One of the biggest areas of my game I’ve grown into is just trusting my teammates to make plays. I don’t have to make every play, especially with John [Wall] being out and our team being the way it is, you have to be able to trust your teammates,” Beal said.
Reserves got key minutes to start the fourth quarter and made the most of them with crucial plays on both ends of the floor. Bryant came up with a block, then added a turnaround jumper. Randle nailed a three-pointer to push the lead to five, then Parker made a pair of shots in the lane to keep the lead at seven as Beal checked back in to the game with just over five minutes left.
Parker again scored with a spin move and layup to make it 91-82, and after Beal nailed another three-pointer, Parker made a fadeaway jumper to make it 96-90 with just over two minutes remaining. Bryant finished the performance with a dunk, and Beal was waiting to embrace the reserves as they came off the floor afterward.
“I can’t do it by myself, and that’s something I know, realize, and my teammates know as well,” Beal said. “We just instill confidence in each other and just make the right play, no matter who makes it, and continue to have fun.”