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Fast break: Wizards regain edge on Paul Pierce's game-winner


Fast break: Wizards regain edge on Paul Pierce's game-winner

Invisible for most of Game 3 vs. the Atlanta Hawks, Paul Pierce made his presence felt when the Wizards were desperate for an answer. Tied at 101 with 14 seconds left in the game, Pierce gladly accepted the switch of the smaller Dennis Schroder guarding him and calmly backed him down, stepped back and over the help defense banked in the jump shot. 

It was a a major sigh of relief for the Wizards, who'd blown a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter without John Wall (left wrist) for the second game in a row, in front a sellout of 20,356 at Verizon Center. They lead the series 2-1.

Those were Pierce's only points of the fourth and it overshadowed what otherwise had been a solid performance for the Wizards until the Hawks' reserves engineered a comeback.

The Hawks went on a 17-0 run to cut the deficit to 94-91 on a series of three-pointers from Dennis Schroder and Mike Scott. Down 101-98 with 14 seconds left, Mike Muscala buried a three-pointer to tie the score on a broken play to set up Pierce's heroics.

Nene had his best game of the series, going 0-for-9 in the first two games, and made 6 of 7 shots to start en route to 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Beal had 17 and a playoff career-high eight assists. 

Porter had 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Marcin Gortat added 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

The Hawks were led by Jeff Teague, who had his best game of the series with 18 points, and his backup Dennis Schroder scoring 18 to lead the late comeback. Schroder scored 16 in the fourth.

TURNING POINT: The Wizards led by double digits throughout the second quarter, and by as many as 18 twice, en route to a 56-43 halftime edge. They held a double-digit lead entering the fourth and lost all of it until Pierce's shot at the buzzer. 

NUMBERS GAME: The Wizards shot 37-for-78, 47.4%, a 43-38 edge in rebounds, but the Hawks had a 50-38 edge in paint points and 25-11 in fast-break points.

DANGEROUS PLAY: Already dealing with a bad right ankle, Beal survived a scare when he had a breakaway basket but was fouled from behind by Teague. He was in the air and vulnerable when Teague came from behind and struck him across the head and sent Beal tumbling. Beal had to be restrained by teammates as Teague walked away. Upon review, it was ruled a Flagrant 1 foul and Beal made both foul shots. 

SICK LEAVE: Paul Millsap was bothered by the flu and didn't start. The Hawks tried to get away with Pero Antic against Nene and it wasn't a good result. Millsap entered at 7:10 of the first after Nene's consecutive baskets at the rim helped the Wizards lead 11-4. He didn't score in missing two shots and had two turnovers as the Hawks trailed 28-18 after the first. Millsap, not Antic, started the third quarter. Millsap was just 2 of 6 for eight points.

SLOW START: The Hawks scored 37 and 28 points to open Games 1 and 2 of this series. Eighteen is their low, and just two more than their playoff low going back to a first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets. The Hawks only made 1 of their first eight shots and shot 7-for-22 in the period, 31.8%.

QUALITY TIME: After appearing in garbage time of a blowout of Game 4 for the Toronto Raptors, Will Bynum had his most significant run. He played six minutes of the second quarter. Bynum shared the backcourt with Ramon Sessions and got into the paint, but his first pass was a turnover. He drained a contested corner three-point shot for a 37-24 lead that got the Wizards on a run to lead by 18. He also picked up three fouls in that span. Bynum returned to play 13 minutes in the fourth and got to the basket in transition while drawing a foul on Mike Muscala. Bynum drove past Kent Bazemore to get in the paint and left it for Porter for a layup for their first 20-point lead at 94-74. Bynum re-entered in the final 24 seconds when the Wizards needed ball-handlers and made both foul shots for a 101-98 lead to end with nine points.

UP NEXT: Both teams likely will practice lightly Sunday before playing Game 4 at Verizon Center on Monday (TNT, 7 p.m. ET).

MORE WIZARDS: John Wall addresses relationship with Wizards medical staff

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

“How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?”

That brain-busting question from a current NBA general manager came before the February 7 trade deadline when rumors involving Wizards guard Bradley Beal swirled.

Another migraine-inducing conundrum is forthcoming whether Beal receives All-NBA honors or not.

Should the league’s upcoming announcement of its first, second and third team include the two-time All-Star, the Wizards may have no choice but to break up the backcourt pairing with John Wall that fueled the franchise’s most sustained success since winning the 1978 title.

This honor comes with a financial reward-- if extended to Beal by the Wizards --  in the form of a supermax contract worth approximately $193 million over four years that would begin in 2021-22. He still has two years and $56 million remaining on the valued five-year, $127 million deal he signed in 2016.

The issue is less about Beal’s hefty chunk of the Wizards’ salary cap, but combining it with Wall’s four-year, $170 million supermax deal that begins next season. Offer Beal the supermax and, should he accept, approximately 71 percent of the team’s future salary cap beginning in the 2021-22 season would be chewed up by two players.

Beal and Wall, when healthy, are All-Stars. They’re not Jordan and Pippen.

NBC Sports Washington spoke with over a dozen league sources in recent weeks including three current or former general managers, other executives, NBA coaches, and scouts, about Beal’s contract situation and the Wizards’ overall equation coming off a 32-50 campaign.

Some dutifully tried putting themselves in the mindset of Washington’s next front office leader knowing Beal’s contract status and other limiting or uncertain factors.

The executives shared opinions on whether to boldly hold or sell high on the Wizards’ best player. Regardless of their stance, their initial instinct almost unanimously landed in the same place as this current lead executive: “I have no idea what you would do.”


There’s an incredibly strong argument for doing nothing. How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?

Several NBA sources largely acknowledge the choice almost gets removed from the Wizards front office should Beal receive the All-NBA nod. Even if Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson or Ben Simmons trump Beal in the voting, events from early February may effectively force the Wizards’ hand.

Washington faced its second consecutive luxury tax payment, diminishing playoff hopes and the knowledge that Wall would miss the rest of the season with a heel injury.

Despite those negatives and salary cap concerns with only five players catapulting the team over next season’s salary cap, big picture hope existed. The headliners -- Wall, Beal and Otto Porter -- previously put the Wizards in a playoff contender mode. “We're not trading any of those players,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said at the time.

There’s a good reason to believe Leonsis meant what he said. Then life intervened and forced change.

Wall’s left Achilles ruptured during the first week of February. The recovery time means an entire calendar year and perhaps the full 2019-20 season. Those negatives, especially with the salary cap, were now amplified.

Washington dealt with that financial scenario two days after the Wall status update by trading Porter and Markieff Morris to slide under the luxury tax.

Another life event requiring a financial decision could happen this week.


There’s no debating whether Beal is worthy of the All-NBA accolade. Some believe he is a favorite to snag one of the two guard spots on the third-team.

The dilemma is can the Wizards justify offering a contract with those hefty terms knowing what’s already on the books, plus the upcoming challenges.

Pass and the likelihood of trading Beal at peak value becomes a leading option. Hold Beal regardless and his trade value effectively decreases over the next two seasons with the possibility he leaves as a 2021 free agent without compensation.

“The Wizards is a hard job right now,” a former GM told NBC Sports Washington. “There’s a lot to figure out. Timelines can’t be certain with John Wall in particular. For Bradley Beal, that's a decision… Hard to walk in [to those interviews) with a specific plan.”

Leave the supermax contract off the table and the human element arises. Those familiar with Beal’s mindset do not see a Robin to Wall’s Batman. Co-headliners, cool, but then pay and appreciate accordingly. Maybe folks could start referring to the pair as Beal and Wall once in a while.

Forget the money, which isn’t Beal’s driving motivation. As one source familiar with Beal’s thinking stated, “Brad needs to be in the playoffs. He’s not disruptive...Brad just wants to win.”

The Wizards might not be in playoff position next season even if Beal maintains his All-NBA level. It's a near lock they won't if the 2012 first-round pick is traded.

Beal averaged 30.9 points in February, the same month he dropped a season-high 46 at Charlotte and his All-NBA buzz soared. Beal joined 2019 MVP finalist James Harden as the only players this season to average at least 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals.

The wing guard’s leadership kept Washington tangibly in the playoff race until realities of the undermanned roster kicked in.

“I think [Brad is] an all-NBA player in my eyes,” said Wall, an All-NBA selection in 2016. “You know how tough it is to make that team? It’s always tough. The year he’s had speaks for itself.”

How do you trade that player especially one groomed by the organization since selecting him third overall in 2012? You can't -- but the Wizards might not have a choice.

Nobody recognizes this more than Bradley Beal.

"Honestly, I’m here until I’m not here," Beal told NBC Sports Washington earlier this month. "I’m not thinking too strong on it. My personal desire is to be here and see the direction we go. Hopefully, the correct direction.

"I keep hearing the possibility of rebooting, trading Brad and getting assets back. It’s a business. I understand both sides of it. I can’t be mad at it."


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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks Tuesday to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970, where they were eliminated by the Boston Bruins.

They will look to even the odds, as they will be taking on the Bruins yet again on Monday night.

Blues fan and St. Louis native Bradley Beal will hope that his hometown squad will take the cup from the reigning champs, the Washington Capitals, and win the matchup against the Bruins.

Beal cheered on the Caps just a year ago and is ready to show out for the surging Blues.

To really put it into perspective how long it has been since the Blues played for the Cup, take a look at the number one song in the country when these two teams faced off 49 years ago. 

The Blues besting the Bruins will be a challenge, and Beal will be ready to root for his squad until the final buzzer.