Bradley Beal's status hasn't changed from questionable for the Wizards for tonight's game vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder even though he practiced some, but it's hard to imagine that he won't play considering the caliber of opponent and his history of playing through pain.
"You know my motto, if it ain't broke I ain't sitting down," Beal said when pushed for an answer about the left shoulder he bruised in a game Saturday. "At the same time I want to be smart and not have an injury linger on further than what I need it to."
Beal fell and took a knee to the left shoulder that forced him to leave a game at the Atlanta Hawks. Tests, including an MRI, came back negative. He didn't practice Monday. He was taking shots early Tuesday.
"I'm able to move it a little bit more. Still sore," Beal said when first asked about his non-shooting arm. "I'm still unsure about tonight. I'm not sure if the status is going to change or not."
Using Beal's history as a guide, he has repeatedly played through worse injuries. As a rookie, he sprained both ankles. A high one on his right leg led to the first of three stress reactions in each of his first three seasons. In a playoff game with the Hawks last season, Beal rolled his ankle so badly that he left the floor in tears. He didn't miss a game. If Beal wants to play, coach Randy Wittman isn't going to stop him.
An elite opponent like the Thunder (4-3), with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, makes it more likely that he'll try to gut out any discomfort. The last time they were here, Westbrook made the game-winning shot with one second left in overtime and it came against Beal.
"I remember I slacked off and Westbrook got a layup at the end," Beal said. "That much I do remember."
A team that has had 50 turnovers in the last two games, both losses, the Wizards (3-3) tend to play better against elite opponents. They beat the San Antonio Spurs last week on Beal's buzzer-beating three-pointer 102-99 when they only had 10 turnovers.
"That's kind of natural for any team. Whenever you have All-Stars and a great team like OKC, coming in tonight you always get pumped for that game," Beal said. "That's just naturally going to happen. Our focus today is the best it has been in terms of attention to detail. We're getting back to what we need to do. Changing our offense a little bit in terms of our spacing and making sure we're not having as many turnovers as we had in the first couple of games."
If Beal doesn't play, Gary Neal likely would start unless Wittman wants more defense on the floor. In that case, it would be Garrett Temple who started for Beal last season after he broke his left wrist.
But even Beal admitted as he walked away, if this were a low profile team instead of Oklahoma City, he might be more inclined to sit this one out. The opponent matters and that will factor into his decision.
"It always does," he said.
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