Bradley Beal and John Wall looked up at the scoreboard at Golden 1 Arena, trailing by 15 points entering the fourth quarter vs. the Sacramento Kings. The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors had lost to clear a path to the No. 2 spot in the East.
They decided it was time to flip the switch and responded by playing the type of basketball that should've made it a blowout from the opening tip. Beal scored 16 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth as the Wizards forced overtime and won 130-122 on Saturday.
"This beautiful arena has scoreboards everywhere. I was able to peek over and see Boston took an L and so did Toronto," said Beal, who was playing at the new home of the Kings for the first time. "It’s important for us in terms of the seeding. John and I both looked at it and said to each other we got to get it and turned it on in the fourth quarter."
Wall had a chance to win the game in regulation but his fadeaway jumper over Willie Cauley-Stein rimmed out.
The Wizards (40-24) are one win away from tying their win total for last season and drawing to .500 on the road. They're 14-15 entering tonight's game at the Portland Trail Blazers.
Beal has been potent since the All-Star break. In nine games, Beal is averaging 28.6 points, 54% field-goal shooting; 43.1% three-point shooting, 86.7% foul shooting; 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals. They're averaging 114 points since the break which is fourth-best in the NBA.
The Wizards are 3-0 on this five-game road trip but have given up an average of 120.7 points which has gone against the core principles of coach Scott Brooks.
"We love the wins but we’re putting ourselves in bad positions," Beal said. "We’re developing bad habits. Something we can’t have this late in the season, moving forward we’ll face tougher teams and against playoff teams you get down like that early they’re going to put you away.
The Kings were held to 9-for-26 shooting after the third quarter. Beal and Otto Porter were more physical on Buddy Heild, who failed to score after halftime. Wall's ball pressure was suffocating Darren Collison and Ty Lawson.
"Once we do that, our whole momentum changes, our whole swagger, our whole identity changes," Beal said. "We’re more physical, we’re more locked into the game, we’re playing faster. Then our offense flows right out of it."
The Blazers are the NBA's best scoring offense since the break. They're averaging better than 50% shooting, too. The Wizards steamrolled them in their first meeting, 120-101, on Jan. 16 but they're not playing the kind of defense now that they showed then. The Minnesota Timberwolves are the final opponent on this stretch Monday.
"We have to figure it out. These two teams we got, they’ve got guys that can score at a really high level," Wall said. "To take the next step we got to get back to that. … We have to lock in and be better."