Bradley Beal, Stephen Curry set to collide amid close scoring title battle

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Chase Hughes
·4 min read
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Beal, Curry set to collide amid close scoring title battle originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Bradley Beal vaulted atop the NBA's leading scorers list on Jan. 6 after he dropped a career-high 60 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, a lead he would hold for three months and three days, 103 days in total. That was until Monday night when Warriors guard and former league MVP Stephen Curry inched ahead of him with 49 points against the Celtics.

Curry now sits at 31.4 points per game with Beal not far behind at 31.1. And on Wednesday, they will face off at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington in what is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated games of the Wizards' 2020-21 season. It also happens to be the first home Wizards game with fans in over 13 months.

Beal and Curry appear to be in a two-man race to the finish line, as the only two players in the league averaging 30-plus points this season. Curry is gunning for his second scoring crown, while Beal could become the first player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history to win one.

Both players are guards listed at 6-foot-3 and, as head coach Scott Brooks explained, both are so complete as offensive players, it's hard to find a weakness in either's game.

"Obviously, they’re the highest-level scorers in the league. They score in a lot of the same ways. They can do a lot of the same things. Curry obviously shoots a lot more threes. But they both can score on every part of the floor, on either side of the floor. They get points in transition, they get points at the free throw line. They’re the two best scorers for a reason," Brooks said.

Curry is averaging his 31.4 points, a career-high, while shooting an impossible 43.1 percent from three on 12.1 attempts per game. He boasts an astronomical effective field goal percentage of 61.6, which rivals the most efficient seasons of his career. 

Beal is averaging his 31.1 points, also a career-best, while adding 4.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists. In addition to scoring at the rim and from three, he's become one of the best midrange shooters in the NBA, this year making 56.1 percent from 3-to-10 feet, per Basketball Reference.

Beal will leave the comparisons between them for others to draw, however. He has insisted numerous times over the past week that he is not actively focused on winning the scoring title.

"I’m not trying to focus on going out and winning that. I don’t need to score 40 or 50 every night because I have a lot of help on our team. I don’t need to do that," Beal said.

"Would I like to win it? One hundred percent. But I’m not trying to go out each and every night to throw the ball up and try to win a scoring title. I want to try to make the playoffs and help my team win."

It's probably best Beal does compartmentalize the scoring chase, especially given how well Curry is playing. His numbers lately are dizzying; 40.0 points per game over his last 11 with a 49.7 three-point percentage on 14.3 attempts. Some might call those video game stats, but that wouldn't be easy to do on NBA 2K, either.

Beal, however, will have to pay Curry mind on Wednesday, as he could see time guarding him. That said, defending Curry is a team-wide proposition. No one man can do it alone.

It will require all five Wizards players on the court at a given time to stop Curry, or at least try to limit him.

"One thing for sure is basically making it impossible for him to finish around the basket. Make him play outside the three-point line," center Daniel Gafford said of his objectives.

"And, if we can make him play inside the three-point line, be it a ball screen or something like that, we have to be up at the level when it comes to bigs because, I mean, it’s Steph Curry. He will shoot it from halfcourt if he wanted to every possession down the floor. Other than that, just being able to be aggressive coming out of screens on defense and making him play inside the three-point line to where we can try to make him finish over contact."

The Wizards are aiming to win their sixth straight game and make it eight of nine, both of which would represent their best stretch of the season. But on Wednesday night, there will also be the game within the game, possibly an epic duel between two of the game's best players.