Beal With It! — Wizards vs Spurs, DC Council 4 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Beal With It! — Wizards vs Spurs, DC Council 4

By
Updated: November 5, 2015

bealwithit

M.V.P.

Bradley Beal stood in front of his locker late Wednesday night, coolly answering questions about his game-winning shot. His responses were so cool, in fact, one might have thought he had just outplayed a guy at the local rec center, not Kawhi Leonard. Or that the Wizards had won a preseason game, not a regular season tilt against the mighty San Antonio Spurs.

Beal discussed how he was coming into his own as a basketball player, he joked about how the 19-year-old Beal would not have taken the game-ending shot, and he again reiterated that no one—not even Kawhi Leonard, who had limited Kevin Durant, Joe Johnson and Carmelo Anthony to just 11-for-41 shooting in his previous three games—could stop him.

Beal even told the media that he knew the Wizards were going to win the game after Tony Parker’s 3-pointer tied the game with 7.3 seconds left:

I told everybody don’t worry about it, I told Gortat—he looked at me like ‘Aww, man.’ I told him, ‘We have seven seconds, we’ll find a way to win the game.’ “

Aside from that game-clinching swish, Beal, with a little help from John Wall, who had 13 of his 17 points in the second half, was instrumental in keeping the Wizards close late in the fourth quarter. His driving dunk down the lane gave the Wizards their first lead since the first quarter, at 92-90. He also hit a tough fadeaway jumper over Leonard, and later stole the ball from Tony Parker, which lead to a Wall free throw.

But it’s that rip-and-rise 3 which perfectly sums up the early-season performance and maturity of Beal. Wall trusted him to knock down the look, Beal lost Leonard on a screen, faked a drive, and certainly could have taken a dreaded long 2-pointer, but instead stepped back, lost LaMarcus Aldridge by doing so, and hit a shot which he said felt as in rhythm as any of the previous 21 shots he had taken during the game.

L.V.P.

Marcin Gortat was charitable enough to offer himself up as the game’s least valuable player, telling the media that his play in the Spurs game, and during this season so far, was “bad” and “awful.” Not unlike his ability to stay out of foul trouble.

The reality is that Gortat is just missing easy shots he normally makes (always up there in FG% at the rim), and many of the fouls he’s being whistled for are questionable at best. Even Coach Wittman said after the game that Gortat needs to shed his guard-like thinking and keep rolling to the basket, instead of taking outside jumpers. Gortat will be fine and his bad-and-awful play didn’t sap momentum from the team. (Kris Humphries on the other hand….)

The Wizards jumped out to a 19-4 lead over the Spurs in the first five minutes of the game, because dribbling and forced shots were kept to a minimum—it was all ball movement, jumpers in rhythm, and each of the five starters turned down difficult looks for an easy, smart basketball play. The basket that gave the Wizards a 19-4 lead came via Humphries running the floor and Wall finding him on the break. The very next offensive possession, Humphries shot and missed a 27-foot 3-pointer and the Spurs scored on the other end. The next possession, Humphries shot and missed another 3-pointer, which led to a LaMarcus Aldridge dunk.

This not only wrecked the flow and continuity of the Wizards’ offense, but it gave the previously reeling Spurs some confidence on both offense and defense. Humphries came out of the game after his two missed 3s, but, even after he’d taken a seat, the Wizards shot and missed 3-pointers in three out of the next five possessions, as they attempted to offset the Spurs run. From the time Humphries missed his two 3s to the 8:06 mark of the second quarter when he returned to the game and finally made a 3-point shot to cut the Spurs lead to five points, the Wizards were outscored 29-11.

As unfair as it sounds, his ill-advised shots changed the momentum of the first quarter, and the Wizards trailed the entire game until Wall and Beal warmed up in the fourth quarter. Humphries played just eight scoreless minutes in the second half, as his uneventful trip into Stretch 4 Land continues. Maybe he’ll shoot better than 25 percent from 3 in the next one.

X-Factor.

Drew Gooden and the aforementioned Kris Humphries were struggling mightily at the 4. The Wizards offense felt it, slowing down after a strong first half of the first quarter. And yet Jared Dudley, proven stretch man, had played just 1:40 of the first half.

Dudley entered the game when Coach Wittman seemed to be saving some of his starters (Wall, Gortat and Humphries) from picking up a cheap foul towards the end of the first 24 minutes. The extent of his first-half impact: one defensive rebound.

Dudley played the last three minutes of the third quarter and every minute in the fourth as a stretch 4, doing all the little things veterans are expected to do. He had three or four hockey assists, he made two out of the three shots the defense “gave him,” and he had a timely steal against LaMarcus Aldridge late in the fourth quarter. But what kept him on the floor, and what Coach Wittman noticed and appreciated the most, was his defense against the Spurs frontcourt:

“I thought Jared coming in gave us a huge lift in the fourth quarter,” Wittman said, post-game. “He’s fronting, and he was on Aldridge, he was on Duncan, he was on all the big guys, but just battled them and didn’t give them anything easy and really made some really great passes offensively.”

That Game Was … Chock Full of Statements

After Saturday’s loss to the Knicks, Bradley Beal mentioned the tough upcoming schedule the Wizards had (San Antonio, Boston, Atlanta, Oklahoma City) and how important it would be to shed bad habits fast. The Wizards are still prone to lapses and quick shots on offense, as well as poor switching and late closeouts on defense, but they came up with timely stops in the fourth quarter and beat a perennial playoff team with a great shot at another NBA title. But that was just one statement.

John Wall and Bradley Beal demonstrated the ability to dominate in stretches, even against a strong, Western Conference contender. Wall didn’t have anything to give in the scoring department during the first half, but he had nine assists and he got his teammates involved. In the fourth quarter, he scored 13 points by getting into the lane, getting to the line, and even hitting a crucial 3-pointer above the break with 3:51 left in the fourth quarter.

Wall even drew high praise from the crotchety Gregg Popovich. “I thought he was brilliant. He got the ball to the right people at appropriate times, often. He was very consistent, he made big shots when he needed to, but the floor game was really excellent,” Popovich said.

Bradley Beal scored at will against arguably the best defender in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard, and he’s shown a knack for making important baskets in the fourth quarter—NOTE: Beal is averaging an NBA-best 10.3 points in the fourth quarter—and he continues to make the statement, with his play not his mouth, that when healthy, he deserves a max deal.

Again, it is very early in the season. The Wizards could easily blow the goodwill they’ve earned with this win, by losing to Boston and Atlanta. But for now, they’re 3-1 after taking down the Spurs in a game where the points swung back and forth like a pendulum. That’s what good (even great) teams do.

Three Things We Saw.

  1. After what had to be one of the toughest weeks of his life, with his friend Flip Saunders passing away, Coach Randy Wittman was back to his old self last night. Prior to the game, he praised Rasual Butler’s work ethic and his ability to be resilient in the NBA, then joked about Butler having more gray hair than he did. When Kris Humphries continued to take and miss shots, Wittman groaned, threw his hands up and yelled at no one in particular. And after the game when he walked into the press room—which is under construction and smells like paint and other noxious chemicals—Wittman joked, “Man, you can get high in here.” The fact that the Wizards played better defense, scratched at a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (27 to 10) and beat a championship team only served to help his mood.
  2. Before the game, as Aldridge walked onto the court to warmup, he said to the trainer, “Man, we looking good, and we haven’t even figured out who we are yet.” That showed last night. There were possessions when it was clear that the Spurs are Kawhi Leonard’s team, the way the swingman had the green light to break the offense to either drive or create space for midrange jumper. There were also offensive possessions when the ball would whip around the perimeter, land in Aldridge’s hands and just stop. He’d pound the ball a few times and either shoot a tough shot or pass the ball back out, but the rhythm of the offense had already been disrupted. David West made two key strips on Nenê but he was a non-factor on offense, as was Tim Duncan, save for a few late game baskets. The Spurs will figure it out—they always do, because they have the NBA equivalent of Bill Belichick as their head coach in Popovich. But right now, they are in a perpetual state of adjusting as Tim Duncan succinctly put after the game: “It’s about learning each other and learning what works and what doesn’t work. It’s a learning process. Our team has changed, our philosophy has changed and it’s about learning what works.”
  3. Bradley Beal clearly carried the Wizards offensively. But Otto Porter, quietly, had an efficient offensive outing, particularly in the first half. When the open shots were there, he made them. He ran the floor with Wall or Sessions. And when the rest of the Wizards were floundering and struggling to find any semblance of offensive rhythm, it was Porter who kept them afloat. He’s not flashy like Pierce or dominant on defense like Ariza, but he’s effective. He even collects rent from time to time:

 

Rashad Mobley on FacebookRashad Mobley on InstagramRashad Mobley on Twitter
Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.