Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal was sublime in Game 7 of an Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Boston Celtics, and he was subjected to a series of exit interviews over the next couple days, so forgive him for being bummed about his offseason starting earlier than he would’ve liked.
Beal believes the Cleveland Cavaliers not only tanked the end of their regular season to fall to the No. 2 seed and avoid facing the Wizards in the second round, but the 23-year-old sharpshooter also thinks the Cavs were rooting for Boston to beat Washington, for fear they might have to play the Wizards in the conference finals. It’s all quite a grandiose theory Beal laid out to CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Chris Miller:
“Cleveland didn’t want to see us. I always said that. I felt like that’s the reason they didn’t play us in the second round. They didn’t want to see us in the second round. If they were going to go down, they were going to go down in the conference finals. They didn’t want to go down in the second round, because they knew we would give them that competitiveness and that challenge. We were going to bring it every night and go out there and try to win. We weren’t going to be fazed by who was on the floor.”
A transcript of the comments was published on CSNMidAtlantic.com on Thursday afternoon, and Beal’s interview aired later that night, but it’s unclear if the interview was recorded before or after LeBron James and the Cavaliers spanked the Celtics in Game 1 of the conference finals on Wednesday.
Regardless, Beal, while jovial, was clearly frustrated about not getting a crack at the Cavs:
“Dang, it sucks,” he added. “It sucks. It sucks.”
I guess it sucks.
After all, Beal and backcourt mate John Wall combined for 64 points in a commanding 127-115 victory in Cleveland the last time the two teams met, even if the Cavaliers played in Charlotte the night before. The Wizards also took the Cavs to overtime in one of their two previous losses to Cleveland.
Still, Beal’s theory would require LeBron to actually care about who he faces in the East playoffs, where his Cavaliers just ran their record to 33-4 since returning to Cleveland. It would also mean the Cavs preferred to play the third-seeded Toronto Raptors in the second round — the same team that bolstered its roster with tough guys Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker this season after giving Cleveland its most difficult in-conference challenge of the past three years in last year’s conference finals.
Granted, after beating Boston to take command of the top seed on April 5, Cleveland lost its final four games to finish second, two games behind the Celtics. The Cavs owned the same record as Boston and the tiebreaker when they began resting their stars over the final two games — losses to the Miami Heat and Raptors with Deron Williams and Iman Shumpert starting in place of Kyrie Irving and James.
Many believed this was a sign Cleveland valued rest over home-court advantage against Boston in a potential conference finals showdown, which played out according to plan in Wednesday’s Game 1.
Beal was not one of them. Let’s not forget, though, his Wizards would have faced the Cavaliers in the second round had they not lost five of their last eight games to relinquish the third seed to Toronto, although there was no guarantee Washington would’ve beaten the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.
In the aftermath of the Game 7 loss to Boston, Beal “felt like we were the better team,” when it was clear the Wizards did not. (Their starting lineup may have been better, though). And anyone who watched Game 5 of that series can argue with Beal’s contention, “We were going to bring it every night.” Still, who could blame him for being upset about losing a lead with 15 minutes left in Game 7?
Either way, consider me shocked anyone in Washington, D.C., would have an inflated sense of self.
– – – – – – –
More from Yahoo Sports:
• How Kobe saved high schoolers from a final exam
• Kevin Iole: Mayweather-McGregor bout not close to happening
• Mariners pay tribute to Seattle rock icon Cornell
• Veteran QB finds new home after disastrous season