The book on John Wall and Bradley Beal has long been this: Too often they play better when separated and not when together on the court, allowing each of them to run the team on their own terms. The early returns this season suggest that's become a thing of the past.
Beal set a career-high with seven made three-pointers in Monday's 101-95 win over the Sacramento Kings at Verizon Center en route to a team-high 31 points. He added six rebounds and three assists. Wall had a terrible night that was made difficult by a sore leg which contributed to his 11 turnovers (eight in the first half) but he also had 19 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds to balance out that eyesore.
More and more, Wall and Beal are playing better together as they complement each other better in their fifth season together.
"We realize that. It's a little bit of a maturity thing, growing up," said Beal, who also has scored 34 and a career-high of 42 since returning from a right hamstring strain Nov. 9 that kept him out three games. "It's a totally different system, too, different coaches, different players. We realize that we carry a majority of the load. On any given night, I can have it going. He can have it going. When we're both on the floor, it just opens up the floor, opens up opportunities for both of us. If one of us is out there, they're going to just load up on him or vice versa."
Beal had a slow start to the season but is averaging a career-high 20.1 points and his output is rising. Wall's offense hasn't suffered with career-high averages of 25.3 points and 38% shooting from three.
What makes Beal's production so striking lately is that he played 76 minutes in the previous two games and never made a trip to the foul line. Monday, he logged 41 minutes in the overtime game and only made two trips. Those didn't come until the last three minutes of regulation in what had been a tightly called contest that featured 47 fouls and 52 foul shots.
In the win against Sacramento, Wall and Beal did something for each other that they'd yet to show consistently this season: They screened for one another. While that might not seem like a big deal, it is.
The more a shooters like Beal partake in flex action, weakside screening for others before they get a screen themselves, improves the quality of their eventual looks. Defenses are required to make decisions on whether to switch or not to switch more often and are prone to make more mistakes. It also creates more mismatches. In his last five games, Beal is shooting 21-for-49 from three-point range, or 42.8%, and 50% overall from the field.
Still, there are matters to work out. Wall took an impossible, contested fadeaway jumper at the end of the regulation as he ran the high pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat to Beal's side of the floor. Given Beal's hot hand, he probably should've been the first option and, to have better spacing, he was better-suited on the weakside of the floor. After watching the film with Wall on Tuesday, coach Scott Brooks agreed that it was a forced shot and not the best read by his point guard.
Closing games with better efficiency is their next level as a duo.
[RELATED: Wizards' game plan works on DeMarcus Cousins]