Bradley Beal had his career-high of 42 points against the Phoenix Suns, with 26 of those points coming in the second half: It's the way he did it that made his performance so special. He made five three-pointers, nine two-pointers and nine free throws.
He even put forth a better effort on defense compared to how he played vs. the Miami Heat on that end. Yesterday, film study was all about John Wall's defense. Today is about how Beal created his offense and the role his teammates, namely the screening of Marcin Gortat, had in helping him. And Beal didn't have a turnover in 40 minutes of play.
Sure, Phoenix isn't considered a good team defensively, but the Miami Heat are exactly that. They have a defense-first coach in Erik Spoelstra and Beal dropped 34 on them in a loss the previous game. Beal took 26 shots, shot 46%, including four threes, and was 6-for-6 from the line. Perhaps the best defensive center in the game, Hassan Whiteside, was in the middle for Miami so that argument doesn't hold water.
Beal was special vs. Phoenix. A snapshot of what he did well with most of the focus on the fourth:
-- 3:57-3:52: The high screen and roll by Marcin Gortat frees Beal from Brandon Knight, and Alex Len sinks way too deep into the paint. Talk about a practice shot, this one is it. That’s too much cushion for a shooter but Beal has been so good attacking off the dribble he'd have his way with Len if he gets too close.
-- 5:02-4:55: Defended by Devin Booker, Beal gets three screens, a pindown from Kelly Oubre, a cross screen from Tomas Satoransky (then he pops to the arc to make himself available for the pass/shot) and another from Gortat whlile Wall dribbles up top. Beal loops around Gortat's screen. Knight and Booker, however, botch the coverage. Knight, who seems intially confused on if thery were supposed to switch, should’ve trailed which would've given the Suns support on the baseline to seal off the penetration. Len comes over as does Knight to run off Beal from the same angle. This allows Beal to attack in a straight line off the dribble and he draws the foul on Booker for two free throws.
-- 2:55-2:50: Satoransky inbounds the ball to Beal, who curls around a screen from Gortat. Booker gets caught on Beal's left hip, unable to use the baseline as a second defender, and Beal correctly diagnoses that he has a straight line to the basket if he is decisive. He gets by Booker and to the spot at the rim before Len can help in time. Beal uses the rim as protection and gets the soft reverse lay-up.
-- 11:38-11:24: Defending Booker, Beal recovers after slamming into a screen from P.J. Tucker and contests at the point of release to force the miss. He doesn’t let Booker off the hook attacking him on the other end to draw the foul with body contact. Beal lulled the Suns to sleep before going into high gear. He gets his shoulders past Booker and there’s no help under the rim to stop him (Tucker is focused on Gortat trailing the play). This is a good IQ play.
-- 8:47-8:39: Beal embarrasses the screen-roll coverage here, taking a screen from Jason Smith and splitting the help of Alan Williams down the middle for a clear path to the hoop. Williams probably needed to make a contact show to slow down Beal but they never force him to break stride. Easy bucket.
-- 7:41-7:28: Beal is defended by Leandro Barbosa, reversing around Gortat’s screen then he stops his roll to recereen – the proper read because Williams was so far back to defend the roll. Look where Williams is again as Barbosa gets creamed by Gortat. He’s at least two feet back the way Len played soft coverage. It's a long two but what does it matter because that's a virtual layup for Beal.
-- 5:20-5:11: Wall entry to Markieff Morris who is being defended by Eric Bledsoe underneath on a switch off their screen-roll. Booker sinks in, Beal corner difts. Wide-open 3. Booker could've tried harder to contest.
-- 3:24-3:15: This is all Beal. He screens from Wall, runs off, reverses, gets screen for Gortat as Booker trails. His hesitation dribble sheds Bledsoe, freezes Len and he explodes past his help in middle for the layup.
This was a little bit of everything from Beal. He took what the defense gave him at times and at others he forced them into mistakes by constantly putting the pressure on them. Moving without the ball is key, especially with Wall on the floor because he'll command so much attention as the primary ballhandler. And as described here, more screen action by Beal will assist him in getting better looks and to the foul line because it can create even more mismatches on switches.
This Beal is an All-Star. But can he maintain that with 69 games left in the season? That'll always be the question until he does it.
[RELATED: Film study: John Wall's defense]