Based on the way the playoffs are going, it's probably a good time to resurrect the discussion of where the Wizards rank among NBA backcourts. While 2014-15 MVP Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are deservedly called the future, John Wall and Bradley Beal can't be quickly discarded as afterthoughts any longer.
Curry and Thompson are struggling and trailing the Memphis Grizzlies 2-1 in their Western Conference semifinal. The Wizards dominated supposedly an equal or better backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan by sweeping the Toronto Raptors and now are giving the Atlanta Hawks' Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver, both All-Stars, fits.
It's probably safe to say that Korver, the NBA's best three-point shooter coming into the postseason, is sick of seeing Beal who is proving that he can consistently be the two-way player for the Wizards in this second-round series with the Hawks.
Korver has been a non-factor, unable to free himself from Beal who is able to still get his shots. In a 103-101 Game 3 victory for the Wizards on Saturday, Korver played 37 minutes and only attempted five shots. His two made field goals came on second-chance points from offensive rebounds by Atlanta.
"It's tough. He's got to play against a guy that moves around like Korver does," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said after Sunday's practice. "But he's done a great job, staying aggressive at both ends. It gets harder and harder the farther you move along."
Korver was matched up with Beal for 9:32, and he was 1-for-4 for just three points, according to the NBA's SportVU player tracking data.
And consider that Beal is doing this after rolling his troublesome right ankle so badly in Game 1, when he led all scorers with 28 points, that he left the court in the fourth quarter in tears. And without John Wall, who fractured his left hand and wrist and has missed the last two games and is unlikely to play again this series.
"Don't let my face fool you now. It was tough," said Beal of chasing around Korver after Game 2. "I was trying to do whatever I could. It wasn't easy. A lot of treatment the last couple days but I was out there, no excuses."
These difficulties for Korver shouldn't bee too surprising as there was ample evidence in the regular season. There he shot 1-for-7 and 0-for-4 though Atlanta still won those games. He's 11-for-31 in this series for 35.4%. Otto Porter and Garrett Temple, lanky, long, defense-first players, have contributed to the poor shooting, too.
"Brad, myself, Otto, we've been watching a lot of film on him and understand where he likes to get to his spots, and we just try to do a good job of topping him, sending him away from the screens, getting them out of their sets in terms of denying him wing passes and stuff like that," Temple said. "The bigs have done a great job as well when he comes off the curl, the bigs are there to help and we're helping the helper. We've done a great job of being aware of where he is. He gets a lot of his points off transition."
Beal sets the tone with how he starts out on Korver. Even without Wall, the Wizards have the tools to keep Teague contained, out of the paint and smother his ability to kick the ball out to Korver spotting up around the arc.
"This team is beatable,' said Beal, who tied a career playoff high with seven assists in Game 2 and surpassed it with eight in Game 3. "We feel like we're the better team."