Wizards

Quick Links

No panic for Bradley Beal, who broke out after slow start in Game 1 vs. Hawks

No panic for Bradley Beal, who broke out after slow start in Game 1 vs. Hawks

Many of the improvements Bradley Beal has made in his game that have led to his career-best season have been physical. He's healthy, and that helps. He has always had a pretty shooting stroke, but now he makes them more consistently. His ball-handling is worlds better, allowing him to run the offense at times, attack the rim more frequently and perfect one of the smoother stepback jumpers in the game.

Beal has also improved mental aspects of his game and one part in particular is something he and his head coach Scott Brooks have mentioned on numerous occasions this season. When Beal misses shots early in a game, he doesn't let it get to him like he used to. This year he made an admitted breakthrough that allows him to shake off a shooting slump and find a rhythm within a game.

That newfound ability came in handy in the Wizards' 114-107 win over the Hawks in Game 1 of their first round playoff series on Sunday. Beal began the game in a woeful shooting slide, making just three of his first 12 shots. After one of them, a midrange jumper from the elbow, Beal pointed to the heavens, hoping that was it, that he had snapped out of his funk.

Beal ultimately did snap out of it midway through the third quarter. After then he went 6-of-9 from the field and along the way gained his swagger back, as evidenced by this smile and celebration from the floor after Kent Bazmore fouled him during a shot he made:

[RELATED: Wizards' Morris: Don't call me a stretch four]

Beal ended up with 22 points, three assists and three steals. Afterwards, he described what he's learned about breaking out of early-game slumps.

"Just staying with it. It's a long game. I've played in the playoffs before, so I understand the intensity of it," he said. "I can't get caught up in myself. I can't get caught up in having that selfish mindset of not making shots or not getting shots or not being who I'm capable of being. Just stay within the flow of the game and be who I am. When I did see one go down, just continue to fire them up."

Brooks hasn't been around Beal long. But he has been around plenty of elite scorers and overcoming early-game rust is part of the deal for the best of the best.

"I’m happy for Brad [Beal]. Brad missed a lot of shots early and I’ve seen the growth of him, it doesn’t affect him. He’s like, you just reboot the computer every five minutes and just focus on making the next shot. That’s a sign of his toughness that he brings to our team.”

Last time the Wizards were in the postseason, the man some call 'Playoff Beal' was born. Now there is a new and improved iteration. Just because you keep in check early, doesn't mean that will continue.

[RELATED: 10 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Hawks in Game 1]

Quick Links

How to watch Wizards vs. Bucks

How to watch Wizards vs. Bucks

After suffering their worst loss since entering the bubble on Sunday, the Wizards have two final opportunities to come out of Orlando with a win. 

In their toughest matchup thus far, Washington will square off with the Milwaukee Bucks, the No. 1 seed in the East and a favorite to win the championship this year.

The Wizards’ young squad has faced some of the league’s best talent in its six games in the bubble, but they will now have to take down reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez to earn their first win since the restart.

While Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr., Jerome Robinson and others have all stepped up in the absence of Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and John Wall, will their combined effort be enough to take down one of the best rosters in the NBA? 

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS HOW TO WATCH 

What: Washington Wizards vs. Milwaukee Bucks 
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, Fla.  
When: Tuesday, Aug. 11, 9:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Wizards vs. Bucks will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)
Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Bucks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS TV SCHEDULE

8:00 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE) 

9:00 PM: NBA Milwaukee Bucks @ Wizards (LIVE)

11:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS WHAT TO WATCH 

Now that the Wizards have officially been eliminated from the playoff race, their remaining goal in Orlando is to come away with a win or two. If they can’t make the playoffs, taking down the No. 1 seed is the next best feat, and Washington will have the opportunity to do so on Tuesday. 

While the Wizards haven’t found their first win yet, they have shown promise in their first six games and hung tight with teams nobody expected they would like the Philadelphia 76ers and New Orleans Pelicans. 

Now that the Bucks have clinched the top seed in the east, the Wizards can hope to catch them on their heels. While Milwaukee took care of business and clinched its desired spot on the playoffs, its return in Orlando has been rustier than expected as well with a 2-3 overall record since entering the bubble. 

If the Wizards can steal a win on their way out of Orlando against the top team in the East, it will go a long way in their young roster developing confidence as they look to the future.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Jerome Robinson (4.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.3 apg): Robinson has been a pleasant surprise for the Wizards since entering the bubble and has stepped into a huge role coming off the bench. Despite averaging under five points per game during the regular season, Robinson has put up double-digit performances in five of the six games in the bubble, including a 20-point performance in the opener and two 19-point performances against Philly and Oklahoma City. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.8 ppg, 5.7 apg, 13.7 rpg): The toughest challenge for the Wizards thus far in the bubble is Antetokounmpo, the reigning 2019 NBA MVP and one of the recently named finalists in this season’s MVP candidacy. While his team has won just two games in the bubble thus far, Antetokounmpo has been sharp, scoring upwards of 30 points in four of the five matchups. 

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

By the numbers: John Wall sees himself playing off-the-ball alongside an improved Bradley Beal

By the numbers: John Wall sees himself playing off-the-ball alongside an improved Bradley Beal

John Wall covered many subjects during his time on NBC Sports Washington last Friday from his interview on 'Wizards Pregame Live' to his role as guest analyst on the Wizards-Pelicans broadcast during the first quarter. One particular point he made seemed to pique the interest of quite a few Wizards fans.

Wall mentioned his role next year when he returns from a lengthy recovery following Achilles surgery, and how his game will now have to change in part to accommodate the ways Bradley Beal has grown while he has been out. Beal has added more play-making and ball-handling responsiblity in the Wizards' offense and has thrived by doing so.

That has Wall thinking he can venture away a bit from the high-usage, floor-general style he has played his entire career.

"My game is going to be totally different than what it was before because now with the way Brad can handle the ball, I can be off the ball a little bit and score from the wing and score in transition by running the wing," Wall said.

RELATED: JOHN WALL SAYS HE AND BEAL ARE MOTIVATED BY PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BREAK THEM UP

Head coach Scott Brooks has mentioned in the past how effective he believes Wall could be off-the-ball given his size and speed and how difficult it could be for other point guards to defend him cutting through the lane and on catch-and-go plays. But we haven't really seen it in practice to any real extent, and when Wall was in his prime before injuries derailed his career, he was one of the most ball dominant players in the NBA.

Still, there are some reasons to suggest Wall could find success in a new-look offense where Beal gets to initiate things. And incorporating those elements into his game more could be the next evolution of him as a player, especially considering he is entering his 30s and won't be able to rely on his elite speed forever.

Changing his game, though, could be easier said than done. Last season, Wall was second only to James Harden in isolation plays per game (5.6) and time of possession (7.8 sec). He was fifth in seconds per touch (5.68).

In the 2016-17 season, Wall's last fully healthy campaign and the best year of his career, Wall led the NBA in time of possession (9.5 sec), seconds per touch (6.39) and dribbles per touch (5.95) among qualified players. He was third in touches per game (89.3) with Harden and his now-teammate Russell Westbrook as the only guys ahead of him. Wall was also eighth in pick-and-roll points (8.7/g) that season.

That style for Wall helped the Wizards form a successful offense. In 2016-17, they were eighth in the NBA in offensive rating (110.4). Though their offensive efficiency has been slightly better this season without Wall (110.5), the league has changed and that now ranks 15th.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

The potential for a clash of styles going forward is apparent in usage percentage. This season, Beal ranks sixth among NBA players in the category (33.8). That is up from 2016-17, the last time Wall and Beal played together for a full season. Beal was 44th in usage rate (25.8) while Wall was 13th (29.9).

If Wall's role does evolve significantly, as he suggests it will, the Wizards will have to find a balance in maximizing Beal's newfound strengths while not overlooking the fact they were good at scoring the ball when Wall led the charge. And looking at the makeup of their roster, there is reason to believe they could be better offensively than ever before while playing a similar style due to the revamped supporting cast.

Wall is one of the game's best distributors and now has an improved Beal to run the floor with. The Wizards want to re-sign Davis Bertans and, if they do, will have two of the best shooters in the league to create space. Rui Hachimura is a threat in the midrange and Thomas Bryant is one of the most efficient players around the rim.

The Wizards could have weapons in all three levels of offense with Wall to set the table for them. It's an ideal scenaro for a point guard with his court vision and passing skillset.

But if Wall does indeed venture off the ball more often moving forward, there are a few reasons to believe it could work. For one, Wall has been decently effective on catch-and-shoot threes, regularly shooting better on those than off the dribble. Here is a year-by-year snapshot at his catch-and-shoot three point percentage as it compares to his overall percentage and his clip on pull-ups:

2018-19
Overall 3PT%: 30.2
Catch and shoot 3s: 37.3
Pull-up 3s: 20.6

2017-18
Overall 3PT%: 37.3
Catch and shoot 3s: 43.8
Pull-up 3s: 31.3

2016-17
Overall 3PT%: 33
Catch and shoot 3s: 35.9
Pull-up 3s: 30.5

2015-16
Overall 3PT%: 35.4
Catch and shoot 3s: 38.4
Pull-up 3s: 31.3

Wall has essentially shot 36% or better on catch-and-shoot threes in each of the past four seasons. That is enough to be a threat and help space the floor.

Another area Wall could be more effective in if he lets go some of the ball-handling responsibility is on post-ups. Earlier this season in an interview with NBC Sports Washington, Chauncey Billups highlighted that as an area of Wall's game that could be expanded, especially coming off the Achilles surgery, with which Billups has experience. If Beal triggers the offense, that could allow Wall to get deeper into the defense before he is fed the ball.

Wall hasn't posted up much in his career so far, but it would be both a way for him to utilize his size advantage over most point guards and another avenue for him to be effective as a passer. By passing from the block, Wall could fip the geometry of the Wizards' halfcourt offense.

He could set up teammates for threes while they are already facing the rim. In addition to Beal and Bertans, Bryant can also step outside and shoot threes very well and especially for a center, this season hitting 39.3% of his threes overall and 40.5% on catch-and-shoot plays.

Last season, Wall was only 27th in post-ups per game (0.5) among guards. He was 43rd the season before that and 45th the year before that. 

Billups was really effective at posting up as a guard, especially later in his career. Jason Kidd and Dwyane Wade are among the best do to it in recent NBA lore. In today's game, Chris Paul and Ben Simmons regularly show up at the top of related statistical leaderboards.

As much as Wall indicates his game could change, however, the Wizards are going to want to use much of what they did before with Wall. When he's healthy, he's about as good as anyone in transition. And if Bertans and Bryant are on the floor, that could be taken up a notch. Bertans was the best catch-and-shoot scorer in the NBA this season and Bryant could develop into the best rim-runner Wall has ever played with.

It will all be about finding a good balance. But the good news is that it sounds like Wall is embracing the change and likelihood he will have to defer a little bit more to Beal than he used to.

Stats via NBA.com and Synergy

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: