The Wizards trailed the Warriors 104-102 with three minutes to go.
Bradley Beal hadn’t made a shot in six minutes and his frustration was growing. Washington’s star shooting guard is the team’s leader both on the court and in the locker room, but he was struggling to stay locked in amid his emotions. That’s when Cassius Winston got his attention.
Winston, a rookie out of Michigan State signed to a two-way contract, has appeared in just 17 games for the Wizards this season. The ink has yet to dry on the first line of his NBA resume, yet he stepped up anyway and gave Beal a quick pep talk to help him focus on the task at hand: winning.
After that, Beal turned it on. He scored seven points with two rebounds and two assists over those final three minutes, leading the Wizards to a 118-114 win over Golden State to put Washington in a playoff spot for the first time all season.
Speaking with NBC Sports Washington’s Justin Kutcher and Drew Gooden following the win, Beal explained what Winston said to him that had such an impact.
“I’ll be honest, man,” Beal said. “Cassius Winston kept me in the game. I was getting a little heated in the fourth. For whatever reason, I just wasn’t in the game and then he was just like, ‘B, be a killer these last three minutes.’ And sure enough, they put the ball in my hand, I just stayed in attack mode and made plays down the stretch.”
With the victory — their sixth straight — the Wizards leapfrogged both the Chicago Bulls and the Toronto Raptors for the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference. If they hold the position for the final three weeks of the regular season, the Wizards will earn a spot in the play-in tournament that determines the seventh and eighth seeds for the first round.