In the closing minutes of the Wizards' win over the Warriors on Friday night, Bradley Beal found resistance everywhere he turned and twice in the final two minutes turned the ball over as he ran into double teams. The Warriors' defense, which ranks ninth in the NBA in efficiency this season, overloaded the Wizards' star, making it nearly impossible for his teammates to get him the ball and for him to find daylight.
Beal, though, would get his chance and the assist came from an unlikely place: the rim. After Russell Westbrook's three-point attempt rimmed out wide, Beal tracked it to the corner where he grabbed the offensive rebound and fired a prayer of a three.
It not only went in, he was fouled. He then made the free throw for a four-point play and put the Wizards up by one at 108-107. It was the go-ahead shot that won them their second straight game.
"A big-time shot by a big-time player," head coach Scott Brooks said.
There was a sense of relief for Brooks not only for the win, but because Beal was able to return to play at all. He had to exit for the locker room during the game due to back tightness. The Warriors' team doctor examined him and Beal had to talk it through with the Wizards training staff.
Beal was already playing through the lingering effects of a right hip contusion which forced him to miss five games and be listed as probable for Friday. He said after the win his back "hurts" and played a role in him scoring only three points in the first half.
"I figured I was just spasming crazy. I just kind of told the staff I’ll duke this out and worry about tomorrow tomorrow," he said. "I just stayed in the game and my teammates continued to encourage me and uplift me. I was able to make some plays down the stretch."
Beal rallied to score 17 points in the second half. After shooting 1-for-5 in the first half, he went 6-for-11 in the second, with one of those shots meaning more than the others.
"I didn’t think he was coming back," Brooks said. "I didn’t know that it was bothering him until he went to the locker room. The staff told me it was some back tightness and that they would keep my updated. Trust me, I was asking every two minutes ‘Do we got an update?’ No update."
Brooks said he expects Beal to be questionable for Saturday's game against the Suns, as the Wizards head straight to Phoenix for the second game of a back-to-back. Now they have two injuries to monitor between his hip and his back.
But as Brooks knows, Beal will likely find a way to give it a go.