The Washington Wizards entered the 2013-14 season with serious optimism in large part due to their young backcourt pairing of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Although neither player had yet shown the ability to play at a superstar level consistently, the two had shown enough ability to convince the franchise that better days were ahead.
It has been an uneven season for the Wizards, currently a playoff team due largely to the woeful state of the East, but on Monday night Beal proved once again why so many people think a bright future is ahead. After blowing a 15-point third-quarter lead to enter the final period down 77-75, Beal scored 13 of his 21 points in the final nine minutes to keep his team in the game until their final possession. On that play, down 101-100, Beal blew by the defending Beno Udrih for a wide-open lay-up with 6.9 seconds on the clock. The Knicks could not convert on the following possession, and the Wizards won 102-100 to break a four-game losing streak and take their first game at Madison Square Garden since 2006.
The Knicks, meanwhile, found yet another way to lose. With 45 seconds on the clock and the game tied at 100-100, the Knicks decided not to take advantage of the two-for-one opportunity to ensure that they would end the game with plenty of time to get the shot they wanted. Although Beno Udrih got to the line with 24 seconds left, he split his free throws and gave Beal the chance to take the lead. Then, after Beal's lay-up, New York failed to call a timeout to advance the ball, forcing Carmelo Anthony into a curiously unhurried journey down the court and an off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer.
Their clock management in the final minute was so bad, in fact, that the horrific lack of rim protection on the game-winner seems secondary. We can expect the calls for head coach Mike Woodon's job to become even stronger after this game.
Yet the Knicks' failures should not obscure Beal's performance. The Wizards' play was not flawless by any means — their third quarter left much to be desired and Wall's late-game foul on Udrih was a big mistake — but this scenario had much in common with the positive prognostications for their season. The top-level talent is there.
(Video via GIFD Sports)
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