Wizards

Wizards

WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal probably said it best himself after the Wizards' 116-95 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday night, the first time in three games he had not scored 40 points. 

"I’m not going to score 40 points every night," he said. "I’m not Superman.”

For a few days there, that was easy to forget. Beal had been the basketball equivalent of a superhero, with two 40-point games, and with seven threes or more in each of them, all in a span of about 26 hours.

On Monday, though, he met his match in the Jazz, who boast one of the elite defenses in the NBA. They are physical and cohesive and have the personnel to take away all three scoring levels.

Usually, if the perimeter is swarmed, Beal can attack in the midrange or at the rim. But the presence of Rudy Gobert, the 2017-18 defensive player of the year, limited his options. 

Gobert can block layups and dunks but also extend to close out on jumpers well beyond the lane. He has a 7-foot-9 wingspan and quick hands that allow him to alter many shots throughout the course of a game.

What the Jazz did to Beal is increasingly rare. After making threes in a career-high 47 straight games, he went 0-for-3 against Utah.

Beal hadn't gone without a three since Dec. 3. His 47 games were tied for the 29th-longest streak in NBA history.

 

Beal scoring only 15 points is also not something we see often. That is about half of what he had averaged in the previous 21 games (29.9), equal to a quarter of the season.

He entered the game averaging 26.2 on the year overall. Only four times in 71 games this season has he been held to 15 points or fewer. And this was the first time all season he has scored 15 or fewer points with zero threes. 

Gobert gave the Jazz security on the back-end, but much of the credit for stopping Beal goes to Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O'Neale and Ricky Rubio.

Ingles, in particular, hassled him all over the court. Ingles is three inches taller and is no stranger to defensive dirty work. He never let Beal out of his sight and bumped him as they ran all over the floor. When Ingles was out of the game, O'Neale replicated his approach.

Rubio and Mitchell do not have the size advantage, but they have quick feet and were committed to getting low and close to Beal whenever he touched the ball. When he went up for shots, they reached out to block his sight.

Beal said that was done more times on Monday night than in any game he's played in many years.

"They face guarded me the whole game," Beal said. "Not since high school [had it been done that often]."

The Jazz also made a consistent effort to pick Beal up quickly at the start of Wizards possessions. Beal said he would have a defender immediately after the Jazz shot the ball. Whether it was a make or a miss, they wanted to know where Beal was at all times.

When Beal did get past his defender, the Jazz clamped him with double-teams. 

"You're not going to guard a player of his caliber with one guy, so I think we had a good awareness," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said.

On their double-teams, the Jazz closed quickly enough to affect his passes. Beal finished with only two assists. 

Usually when teams double him, Beal can make them pay by setting up his teammates, but not in this game. Plus, no one stepped up to shoulder the scoring load. No Wizards players reached 20 points on the night and the team shot 29.6 percent from three.

With John Wall and Dwight Howard injured, and a roster full of players who haven't been here long, the Wizards need Beal to be at his best to win. Sometimes even when he is at his best, they still lose. On Friday, in the first of his 40-point games, the Wizards lost to the Hornets.

Many teams have tried to stop Beal, to cut off the head of the snake. Many have failed. The Jazz were one of the few teams to succeed.

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