Spurs guard Tony Parker had taken his only three-pointer of the season, and he made it over the challenge of Marcin Gortat's near 7-foot frame to tie the score at 99. That's when Bradley Beal went over to the distraught big man to give him a pep talk.
"I told Gortat," Beal said, "we have seven seconds. We're fine. We're going to win the game."
Beal went out and proved himself to be correct. Jared Dudley inbounded the ball to John Wall. Then Beal got himself free from Kawhi Leonard by curling around a screen from Gortat and slipping a screen on Danny Green, who was defending Wall. When Beal popped out to Wall's right side, he made the simple pass. LaMarcus Aldridge ran away from Gortat to cover Beal, who made a jab step to free himself, step behind the three-point arc and drain the game-winner with 0.3 of a second left.
For the second time in three meetings, the Wizards beat the Spurs 102-99 at Verizon Center. Beal had 25 points, with nine coming in the fourth. Wall had 13 of his 17 points there -- and three of his four steals.
"I saw two guards stay together (on the switch) and Brad was open. The only person who could get out there was a big man," Wall said of Aldridge and his own decision-making on the final play. "I like Brad's opportunities against a big man than me going against two guards."
Beal's admiration for Wall, who didn't score in the first half, was comparable.
"I got to take my hat off to John. He didn't score in the first half. He had 17 in the second half. He stayed with it. He didn't get down. They were doubling him whenever he got in the paint. Everybody collapsed," Beal said. "He did a great job of staying with it and staying confident in himself. He made big plays down the stretch, big shots, big passes, great defensive plays.
Considering who was guarding Beal for most of the game, what he accomplished was significant. Leonard is a 6-7 physical defender who was MVP of the NBA Finals two years ago when the Spurs dominated LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Leonard had 18 of 23 points in the first half. Beal wore him down in the Wizards' pace-and-space offense, moving well without the ball, getting to the rim and creating. He also had four assists, five rebounds and three steals for the Wizards.
"He's a great defender. He's an awesome defender. Great competitor. He's definitely one of the best to ever guard me. He's tough," Beal said of Leonard. "At the same time, I'm not going to let anybody keep me from being me. No matter who it is. Not taking anything away from him or anybody else in the league it's just me being confident in myself. It's just me coming into my own, I guess."
Beal even took the larger Leonard down in the mid-post to make a turnaround jumper. He did to the Spurs what they do to everyone else by using pressure offense.
Aldridge anticipated with the score tied that Beal would try to drive to the basket which is partly why he bit the jab step. He guessed wrong.
"Out of all my shots tonight, that one felt the best honestly," Beal said of the winner. "Everything was in rhythm. It just felt naturally good. As soon as I jabbed him, I knew it was good."
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