MILWAUKEE — When he went up for a fast-break layup, absorbed a foul from Milwaukee Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy and realized he wasn’t going to land on his feet, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal became overprotective of the sore right wrist that caused him to miss five games in recent weeks. Bracing himself with his elbow, Beal still managed to bang his wrist and was slow to get back on his feet.
He grabbed his wrist as he stepped to the foul line but coolly drained both free throws, and later added a pull-up jumper and a one-handed fadeaway to show that he not only was fine, but wasn’t going to leave the best game of his short career.
Monday night, in his second game since returning from injury, Beal proved to be the answer to the Wizards’ road woes as he came off the bench to score a season-high 28 points and lead his team to a 102-90 victory over the Bucks at Bradley Center.
“It was just a few seconds worth of pain, but you’ve got to fight through that,” Beal said. “I was able to shake it off, so I was okay.”
The Wizards (15-35) won their season-high fourth game in a row — all against teams contending for playoff spots — and snapped a four-game road losing streak. Three of those road losses came with Beal sidelined, but he helped the Wizards rally from a 10-point first quarter deficit, take the lead before halftime and never look back.
Beal scored nine points in the fourth quarter, with six coming after his hard fall, and Nene provided the finishing touches. After Bucks guard Brandon Jennings hit a three-pointer to cut Milwaukee’s deficit to 96-90 with 2 minutes 38 seconds remaining, Nene backed down Samuel Dalembert for a tough layup inside, then stole an errant pass from Dalembert to set up two John Wall free throws that put the game out of reach.
“We have a good team,” Nene said after recording his third consecutive double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds. “I remember, in the beginning of the season, everybody cursed us, they say bad things about us, they call us terrible team, but I always say, they don’t know the future. We have the potential. We have the talent and we start playing together. We start recognizing each other. When you don’t know the future, you’re going to say things and you’re going to regret after that.”
Wall (14 points, 10 assists) and Emeka Okafor (12 points, 10 rebounds) also recorded double-doubles as the Wizards won for the 11th time in their past 18 games. They still have the worst road record in the NBA at 4-21 but three of those victories have come since Wall returned from a stress injury in his left knee. But this run has been about more than Wall, or any individual.
“We play like a team. Nobody selfish. Nobody wants to be the hero,” forward Kevin Seraphin said. “Every night, you got somebody else shine. That’s good.”
Beal took his turn against the Bucks, a team that he already has some history against.
When the Wizards played Milwaukee on Nov. 9 at Verizon Center, Beal received his first career ejection when he knocked down Monta Ellis on a fast-break layup attempt and collected a flagrant foul-penalty two. The scene escalated when Beal reached down to help up Ellis and Jennings ran up to Beal and shoved him to the ground.
Jennings was also tossed from the game, which the Bucks won, 101-91, the third loss in the Wizards’ 0-11 start to the season. The rematch featured teams headed in different directions, with Milwaukee (25-25) matching a season-long four-game losing streak.
Beal had his eighth 20-point effort of the season — and first since scoring 23 in Denver on Jan. 18, the same night he was injured in a hard fall late in the fourth quarter of the victory. He now has scored a total of 50 points in two games against the Bucks.
“I guess it’s something about this team,” Beal said. “I love playing against [Ellis], because he challenges me on both ends of the floor. Whenever you have an opportunity to go against somebody like that, you always want to go out and make a statement.”
Ellis led the Bucks with 24 points and Ersan Ilyasova had 19 but the Wizards held Jennings to seven points on 3-of-17 shooting. The win over Milwaukee represented Washington’s first on the road against an Eastern Conference opponent after starting the season 0-14.
After a rough start, the Wizards had a complete finish as they held their ninth consecutive opponent under 100 points, forced the Bucks into shooting 37.9 percent from the floor and shot 56.8 percent, a season high for a Bucks opponent.
“We did shoot well. I ain’t going to say we shot bad,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “We created a lot of open shots. We got a lot of good open looks that we knocked down and that was ball movement. It wasn’t sticking in one guy’s hand. We did move the ball, swing, swing, swing and all of sudden, there is a guy in the corner standing by himself.”
Often that guy was Beal, who connected on 10 of 17 field goals, shot 4 of 5 from three-point range and produced the highest-scoring game for any Wizard this season.
“My wrist was feeling a lot better. I was playing with confidence. My teammates were able to find me and I was able to knock down shots,” Beal said. “I just felt good.”