PORTLAND, Ore. — After the Washington Wizards experienced a night they would rather forget, Bradley Beal single-handedly provided new memories.
Beal turned a Tuesday night game against the Portland Trail Blazers into his personal masterpiece: driving the lane to attack the rim, using his body to shield off defenders and clearing space in the midrange and rising without hesitation from deep beyond the three-point arc. By the end, Beal had crafted the finest scoring game of his career, helping the Wizards move past one of the worst moments in franchise history.
Washington defeated Portland, 106-92, one night after losing by 47 points to the Utah Jazz. In doing so, the Wizards (13-11) became the first team to lose by 47 or more points on the road one night, then win by at least 14 on the road the next night, since the Memphis Grizzlies did it in 2015.
Throughout this night of redemption, the Wizards played with improved defense and showed bench depth inside Moda Center. But this one was mostly about Beal, who scored 51 points while leading the Wizards (13-11) back into the light.
Beal’s night will live in Portland lore as the most points ever scored by a visiting opponent, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who scored 49 against the Blazers as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks on Oct. 17, 1972.
“It was a great bounce back game for all of our guys, but in particular Brad played an outstanding game on both ends of the floor,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “He took the challenge of guarding one of the best guards in the league. He was feeling good, and I was keeping him in there.”
Beal shed his protective glasses and put on his playmaker persona and, for the first time in five games, looked more like himself.
The absence of John Wall had forced Beal to find shots for teammates, but the role greatly affected his own play as he produced glaring negative plus-minus numbers in four of the five games without his starting point guard. But Beal, who had worn glasses during the previous two games, returned to his shooting guard ways. He aggressively searched for his shot to the benefit of the team’s offense while the rest of the starters remained in a shooting malaise. In by far his best game since Wall has been out of the lineup, Beal made 21 of 37 shots, also career-high marks.
“I came into the game with the mind-set of being aggressive,” Beal said. “Start to finish. Especially coming off the game [Sunday] night and the way I played the previous four or five games before that. I wasn’t happy about that.
“Tonight I was just playing freely,” Beal said, “and having fun, ultimately. I kind of knew at halftime that it was going to be a good one but I didn’t think it was going to be a 50 pointer.”
While Beal dominated the shots, and rightfully so, the remaining four starters made only 7 of 30 attempts from the field. But on this night, no one complained about shots. Teammates egged on Beal to go for 50 points — even before he had reached 40 — and following the game, they waited for Beal to enter the visitors’ locker room before dousing him in a surprise water attack.
“Brad made history today,” said center Marcin Gortat, who shadowed Beal throughout the game to create slivers of daylight for Beal’s jumpers. “I was glad I was able to contribute with a few screens, a few assists. We were witnessing history today.”
The smiles across the locker room and water stains on the floor revealed how much better it felt to celebrate a significant night. Of course, this came 24 hours after the Wizards made the wrong kind of history.
Still in the wake of the franchise’s worst loss in 46 years, the atmosphere around the Wizards remained unchanged. The team manager didn’t scorch the red uniforms from that 47-point loss. No one in the traveling company was abandoned in Utah — every Wizards player, coach and staffer remained employed. Business continued as usual with no signs of panic.
“I felt good going into this game,” Brooks said. “I believe in our guys. Not one of us wanted to be embarrassed like that.”
The Wizards shook off the lingering mildew from the Utah loss — the team sank just five of its first 17 shots, with little ball movement in between scarce field goals — and distanced themselves with their defense. Through a five-minute span stretching from the first to the second quarter, Washington held the Blazers without a field goal. Although Portland’s own disorder powered this run, the Wizards kept the pressure on by playing solid defense and creating turnovers.
Kelly Oubre Jr. was not always rewarded for his energy and defensive sacrifice, like when he took a blow to the head from center Jusuf Nurkic and hit the floor but didn’t draw a whistle. However, Oubre hustled along and picked up three of the team’s 12 steals through the first half.
The Wizards capped their plus-12 quarter with another swipe and a Tim Frazier flip-in before the buzzer. For the half, Washington produced 16 points off 14 turnovers and held Portland to 34.2 percent shooting from the field.
Although the third quarter proved to be more competitive with Portland outscoring Washington 29-28, Beal remained unstoppable. He played the entire quarter and connected on 8 of 11 shots for 19 points while the rest of the team managed three field goals.
Beal remained on the floor at the start of the final quarter and soon eclipsed his previous career mark — swishing a shot from 27 feet . Though Beal faced several defenders, but never consistent double-teams, he found success.
Just before the closing minute, he dribbled around the perimeter before noticing lanky center Zach Collins standing in his way. Beal calmly pulled up and drained another three-pointer, his fifth of the game. Then, with help from Oubre poking away his fifth steal, Beal added the punctuation to his night with a breakaway two-handed slam in the final seconds.
As has been the trend through the five previous games without Wall, the Wizards’ bench provided where the starters could not. Oubre scored 14 points, and Mike Scott finished with 10. But to erase the bad mojo from the previous night, Washington needed just the scoring explosion from one motivated Beal.
“I was really upset with the way we played, especially with myself individually,” Beal said of the loss in Utah. “I just came in with the mind-set today that I was going to be aggressive, not thinking about anything else but trying to get a win and playing my game.”
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Box score: Wizards 106, Trail Blazers 92