BOSTON -- The three-point shot has evaded Bradley Beal in the postseason, though he's still averaging 23.6 points, but the defensive end is where he has made his mark in the East semifinals with the Boston Celtics.
The Wizards blew them out twice at Verizon Center to even the series at 2 and are tasked with Game 5 at TD Garden where they haven't won since April 16, 2014.
A key component has been how they've limited Isaiah Thomas, who has been held to less than 20 points in each of the last two games. With Kelly Oubre suspended for Game 4, Beal took the assignment on Thomas for most of the second half and was the most effective one-on-one defender.
It's an aspect of Beal's game that goes overlooked because of his three-point shooting. But he's just 29.1% from long range in the postseason. He'd been 2-for-13 in Games 2 and 3 vs. Boston but shot 3-for-6 en route to 29 points in Game 4.
Thomas was held to two points in the second half as he was harrassed by the 6-4 Beal from end to end. Beal only had one steal and no block, but that's not an indication of how a player defends individually.
"It probably does get overlooked because he's so smooth with what he does offensively. He's a gifted shooter," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "His ballhandling, his pick-and-roll game is much improved over this past season. But defensively it's not about getting steals.
"You can lead the league in steals and get two or three a game but you can be out of position 30 or 40 times a game. Brad is solid defensively. To me those are all-defensive type of players, just solid. They make the right plays and they're there for their team, there for their teammates. Brad is definitley on his way to being one of the best two-way players in the game."
Beal hasn't been flawless. In the first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks, he made a series of mistakes in rotations with his team defense. The same goes for Kelly Oubre, who at 6-7 is unique because of his 7-2 wingspan and his ability to defend point guards.
Oubre returns for Game 5 after being suspended for one game after an altercation. He'll be available to help on Thomas, too. Oubre is more foul-prone than Beal, who doesn't reach or gamble for steals which can open up lanes to the rim if he whiffs on Thomas.
"That's something that's been a pleasant surprise with his development going forward," Brooks said of Oubre. "For years to come that can be used as a big-time asset with his length, his ability to guard point guards is huge for us."
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