The last two Wizards victories have included fourth-quarter takeovers by Bradley Beal. He erupted for 17 points in the fourth against the Timberwolves on Feb. 16 and on Tuesday helped the Wizards beat the Hawks with 12 points in the final frame, including two buckets in the last 36 seconds.
Those 12 points polished off a 37-point night for Beal, who also added seven assists. His contributions, especially late, were instrumental for the Wizards to win while playing without Kristaps Porzingis and Monte Morris. Their offense had stalled, as they were missing one of their top scorers and their starting point guard.
Beal making the difference between wins and losses is certainly what the Wizards were hoping for when they signed him to a five-year supermax contract worth $251 million over the summer. They built the roster aiming to give him more help than he's had in years past, so that instead of carrying a large load of the offense he could be the separator that puts them over the top. And with that scoring help, he could have more energy to make plays late in games.
It hasn't gone exactly as they hoped so far this season largely because of injuries. Beal has missed 22 of the team's 61 games, which is a key reason why they are still just 29-32 after beating the Hawks.
Beal, though, has been good when healthy and that includes late in games. Tuesday was Beal's ninth game this season in which he scored 10 points or more in the fourth quarter, with Washington going 6-3 in those games.
Beal is now shooting 71.1% from the field and 57.1% from three in clutch situations, defined in the NBA as when the game is within five points in the final five minutes of regulation or overtime. Only De'Aaron Fox of the Kings averages more points than Beal (4.3) in the clutch this season.
Now, turnovers have been an issue for him late in games. He is tied for second in clutch turnovers (12) this season despite all the time he's missed.
But many of those were earlier in the season. Beal has just one turnover in the clutch in the last two months.
Beal's 37 points against Atlanta were a season-high and the fifth time in nine games he's eclipsed the 30-point mark. Over his last 18 games going back to Dec. 23, Beal is shooting 51.1% from the field and 42.2% from three, averaging 22.4 points.
Beal has overall been excellent this season when healthy. Lately, he's taken his play to another level in the fourth quarter, when the Wizards need him the most.