The Bradley Beal who dominated the Raptors during the regular season, the guy who made the All-Star team and was the Wizards' best player for much of the year was just not the same for the first two games of Washington's first round playoff series with Toronto.
Beal was fine in the Wizards' Game 1 loss, but just fine. He had 19 points, below his season average of 22.6, and shot 2-for-6 from three.
In their Game 2 loss he was unrecognizable. He got in early foul trouble and never found a rhythm.
This is a guy who averaged 28.8 points against the Raptors through four regular season games. All of those were without John Wall. Beal was the No. 1 focus of the Raptors' defense, yet they could not stop him.
Now with Wall by his side, Beal has all of a sudden been neutralized. He scored only nine points in Game 2, shot 3-for-11 from the field and 1-for-5 from three. In large part due to four fouls, two of which came quickly in the first quarter, Beal logged only 24 minutes.
"We need him. We’re going to have trouble beating this team if he doesn’t play better," head coach Scott Brooks said.
Beal's nine points in Game 2 were the lowest in his 36-game postseason career and the same goes for his 24 minutes. Only twice has he shot worse in the playoffs than the 27.3 percent he posted on Tuesday.
Beal wasn't alone. Only Wall, who had 29 points and nine assists, produced among their starting five. Marcin Gortat went scoreless, Markieff Morris had only six points and Otto Porter, one of the NBA's best three-point shooters, never even attempted a three.
The end result was ugly. The Wizards allowed 130 points, the most they have surrendered in a playoff game since 1986, before almost all of their roster was born.
Beal, though, stood out above all because he is usually an elite offensive player. He posted an unsightly -34 plus-minus rating, the worst for a Wizards player in the playoffs in 20 years.
So far, the Raptors have figured out a way to limit his effectiveness.
"The Raptors are doing a good job being physical with him," Brooks said. "He’s missed some open shots and he hasn’t been able to get into the lane and to the free throw line. It’s a little bit on him, it’s a little bit on me and it’s a little bit on John."
This series features a matchup of arguably the two best shooting guards in the Eastern Conference, Beal and Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan. In Game 2, DeRozan was markedly better.
The Raptors All-Star poured in 37 points, 20 of which came in the first half. He shot 14-for-23 (60.9%) from the field and 3-for-6 from three.
DeRozan helped stall Beal on defense and also contributed to his foul trouble. For one game, he looked like the better player. For the season, it was arguably a toss-up.
That is among several reasons to believe Beal will not be held down for long. He dropped 23 points or more in his four meetings with the Raptors this season, including a 38-point gem on Nov. 5.
The Raptors had no luck guarding him all season. Have they really found the solution all of a sudden? That seems unlikely.
The odds appear good for Beal to have a breakout game and soon. If he doesn't, the Wizards may be in serious trouble.
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