The Wizards did something on Tuesday night that is rather remarkable for a regular season game. By announcing publicly they would wear all black before their matchup with the Celtics, then following through on that promise with a full and organized effort, they set an expectation for themselves that could have gone horribly wrong. After the message they sent, the potential for a massive embarrassment was there.
The all-black initiative made national news and if they had lost, there would have been many jokes at their expense. Yet, instead of succumbing to all of the pressure they laid forth by themselves, the Wizards answered the call. They walked the walk and came away with one of their more impressive wins of the season, a 123-108 beatdown of Boston.
Perhaps nobody had more on the line than Bradley Beal, who came up with the idea in the first place. When the Wizards needed him most, in the fourth quarter, he stepped up and rose to the challenge he and his teammate had set.
After the Celtics chopped the Wizards' lead to eight points in the fourth quarter, Beal scored 11 of their next 13 in just over three minutes. Included in that was an emphatic slam dunk on a fastbreak and a tough and-1 layup over Marcus Smart, the same player who broke Beal's nose almost a year prior to date.
Beal sized him up, conquered him, then directed a few words his way right after. It was a side rarely seen from the mostly stoic Beal.
"Everybody's different. I play with a lot of emotion," point guard John Wall said. "That's just how I play the game. Brad is more of a quiet guy who doesn't say too much. But he was into the game. You could tell it was a big game for him. He enjoyed it and played big for us in the fourth quarter."
"We knew what this game was," Beal said. "We all had it circled last time we played them. Both teams. It was a competitive game, but I am glad we were able to dominate.”
Beal, who finished with a game-high 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting, said there is a simple reason why he locked in for the fourth quarter.
"I wanted to win. I wanted this win bad especially to keep our home streak going," he said after the Wizards' 14th straight victory at the Verizon Center.
Beal has spoken often this season about the Wizards' home crowd. He insists it is a big reason why they are among the best home teams in basketball.
“It was awesome, man. It was awesome," he said. "They have been terrific all year and they continue to support us, each and every game. I do not know if they know, but we constantly feed off their energy. Them being loud and kind of buzzing them on offense and when we get the ball, you can barely hear yourself think, so it is great to be able to get it going and emotions are high, man."
The Wizards swept their back-to-back set with their win over Boston and a victory the night before against the Hornets. It was in Charlotte that Beal broke out of what was the worst shooting slump of his career. He missed 20 straight threes for the first time as an NBA player and before the Hornets game had shot 28.6 percent from the field in his previous three games.
Now that seems like a distant memory. Beal hit the 30-mark in points on Tuesday for the seventh time this year after only getting there once last season. He went 2-for-5 from three and also added five assists and two steals.
The NBA's All-Star team reserves are announced on Thursday and Beal's head coach thinks he should be included.
"You know what? He’s a good player. The other 14 coaches are going to have to make a tough decision on who makes the All-Star team, but he’s as good as any guard in the East and, hopefully, they see that like I get to see it every day in practice and every night we play," Scott Brooks said.
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