WASHINGTON — Though it belies his humble personality, Bradley Beal had to show off a little bit on Wednesday night.
From a couple of monster dunks after drives to the basket to a crossover move that left another potential All-Star at sixes and sevens, Beal dazzled the Capital One Area crowd with 27 points, going 11-of-14 from the field, as the Washington Wizards defeated the New York Knicks 121-103, the team’s fifth win in its last six contests.
Beal had extra reason to have a pep in his step going into tonight, as he had just been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for last week, his first-such honor from the league. After averaging 24.3 points per game in a 3-1 week for the Wizards, Beal raced out from the traps early, scoring 18 of his points in the first half.
His stellar play from the week before won him his first league honor since being named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2013.
“I was proud,” Beal said about his Player of the Week honor. “I was happy. I always credit my teammates because I wouldn’t be in that situation without them, putting me in position to score, getting them shots and helping the bigs rebound. It was a great week for us all around. If we didn’t win game, I wouldn’t be considered for that anyways.”
Despite Beal’s torrid first half, the Wizards only had a one-point lead at the break at 64-63, securing the advantage on a baseline jumper by John Wall that just beat the first-half buzzer. The Wizards, however, opened the second half by scoring the first eight points of the quarter en route to an extended 21-5 run that put Washington in control. The pièce de résistance in that game-deciding run came when Beal, guarded by Knicks center Kristaps Porzingis on a switch, put on a series of crossover moves before draining a three-pointer from the left wing to give Washington an 84-68 lead.
Beal wryly admitted after the game that on the move in which he had Porzingis turned every which way that he was looking for that match-up one-on-one so he could have that opportunity to make The Unicorn dance a little more on defense.
“I shot one in the first half, and [Porzingis] stumbled a little bit on that one,” Beal said. “I told myself the second time, I’m going to do a little bit more to see if I can make him fall. He didn’t hit the deck.”
Beal was not the only Wizards player who was hot from the field, as center Marcin Gortat scored a season-high 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field. Gortat joined Beal and John Wall (25) in scoring at least 20 points tonight for the Wizards.
“Well, [Gortat] sets great screens and John (Wall) and Brad (Beal), our ball handlers, put a lot of pressure on the defense, and if they don’t put an extra man on our quickness, he gets to the rim, and he did a good job tonight rolling,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks.” When [Gortat] rolls, he has layups and John was able to find him for easy buckets. You are not going to miss a lot of shots right around the key but then [Gortat] made a couple of jump shots too. It was a good game.”
Gortat’s play plus the defense from forward Markieff Morris helped to keep Porzingis in check offensively, as the 7-foot-3 center led all Knicks starters with 16 points, yet only two of those points were scored after halftime.
“Well, [Porzingis] has got to use his athletic ability running down the court,” said Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek in describing what went wrong for the team in the second half. “We got a little slow there for a while, part of that was [the Wizards] were scoring every time and some early offense. When we moved the ball from side-to-side and make other teams play on defense, we do alright. Sometimes we quick-shoot it. We don’t do a pick-and-roll and dribble around a little bit trying to get off that. We’re a team that needs to execute and the move the ball.”
Like in last night’s loss at Madison Square Garden against the San Antonio Spurs, Washington decided to be very physical with Porzingis to try and get him out of his comfort zone.
“A team like San Antonio for example, I felt like they were all focused on what I was doing,” said Porzingis after the game tonight. “Wherever I was, there was contact there. Bump, bump, bumping me there. That was, obviously, having a team like that doesn’t make stuff easier.”
Michael Beasley came off the bench to lead all Knicks scorers with 20 points.