To borrow a famous phrase from Wizards lore, you could say Bradley Beal's swag was phenomenal on Wednesday night.
Despite tired legs and an impending, well-deserved All-Star break on his mind, Beal put in a thorough performance in a win over the New York Knicks and displayed his All-Star confidence in the process, both on the court and off of it. It all started in the pregame show Wizards GameTime on NBC Sports Washington. He closed his interview with Chris Miller by saying of the last game of the first half.
"We gotta have it, so if the Blue Magic gotta come out then the Blue Magic gotta come out," Beal said, referencing one of his nicknames.
Beal proceeded to drop 36 points, with seven assists, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks. He shot 14-for-22 (63.6%) from the field and 4-for-7 (57.1%) from three.
Beal's third quarter deserves its own highlight reel. He had 12 points in the frame to lead a Wizards effort that turned the game around. After trailing 21 at halftime, the Wizards outscored the Knicks 39-15 in the third. They put themselves in position to win after looking like blowout material for the first half of the game.
Beal's biggest impact was felt on defense where he helped limit Knicks guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. to just five points in the second half and zero in the fourth quarter. That was after Hardaway had 32 points at halftime on 10-for-12 shooting. He went 2-for-10 in the second half.
The best part is that Beal told Hardaway all of that would happen.
"I told him I was going to shut him down. He started chirping a little bit, we both started chirping," Beal said, noting he's friends with Hardaway. "I told him he wasn’t going to score for the rest of the game and he didn’t."
That's what the great ones can do when they so choose. They can tell their opponent what they plan to do, knowing that individual has no hopes in stopping it. Beal has reached that level.
Beal showed on Wednesday how he can take over a game on both ends of the floor and he did it with the All-Star break within grasp. Currently fourth in the NBA in minutes played, Beal could have taken it easy in the second half, assuming the game was out of hand, as the Wizards trailed by as much as 27 points. But he kept fighting and helped lead the Wizards to victory.
The Wizards closed the first half of the season 7-2 in their nine games since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. There have been many on the Wizards who have stepped their games up, but Beal has been the leader. In these nine games, he's averaged 21.8 points, 6.4 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals while shooting 45.5 percent from the field.
Beal is now the focus of opposing defenses. He has adapted this game accordingly. His assists are up significantly because he is doing the right thing when defenses collapse. He doesn't force shots, he instead finds open teammates and defers when necessary.
Beal is consistently adding dimensions to his game and has All-Star swagger to match his All-Star numbers.
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