Once again, Bradley Beal is proving a bright spot for the Wizards

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Once again, Beal is proving a bright spot for the Wizards originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

With the Wizards facing a 2-0 series deficit against the Sixers, just two losses away from their 2020-21 season being over, Bradley Beal somehow looks more invincible than ever. His team is the underdog, he just recently battled an injured hamstring that could still be a factor and he's being ganged up on by one of the NBA's best defenses, yet Beal is still getting buckets.

He's dropped 33 points in each of the series' first two games, each time shooting 50-plus percent from the field. That is despite seeing a heavy dose of double-teams, plus plenty of Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle. Simmons is a defensive player of the year finalist and Thybulle may already be one of the best wing defenders in the league. Those two have helped the Sixers hold opposing guards to the second-lowest field goal percentage of any team this season.

Unfortunately for the Wizards, they haven't been able to capitalize on Beal's scoring and especially when his points have come in bunches. That was epitomized in each game by the Wizards losing the point differential in his biggest quarters. He dropped 17 in the third quarter of Game 1, yet the Wizards were outscored by seven in the frame. He had 16 in the second quarter of Game 2, only to see the Sixers edge the Wizards by three.

When Beal raised his game to lift his team, the Wizards weren't able to get the necessary stops to make the most of his efforts. But in the bigger picture, Beal's success could be seen as the precursor for yet another leap in his development. He is now 27 years old and in his ninth NBA season, but has improved his game noticeably year-after-year. This season, he raised his scoring average from 30.5 points per game to 31.3, all while shooting a higher percentage (48.5% compared to 45.5%).

Just because the Wizards may lose this series, doesn't mean Beal can't get something out of it. He's proving he can score on the Sixers' vaunted defense despite other obstacles being in play. If he can score on them, who can't he score against?

At the very least, it should help Beal go into the summer and next season with even more confidence. But it's also possible this is a sign he's still ascending. As good as Beal is, the top scorer in the East two years running and an All-Star starter, there are more levels he can reach. One more step in his development and he may be winning scoring titles, not finishing second, and competing for MVP trophies.

That has seemingly been missed over the last few years when it comes to the debate about the Wizards keeping him instead of trading him. The assumption by those who want him traded for draft picks, a move that would signal a rebuild, is that Beal has peaked. But what if he hasn't? 

It would not be wise to give up on a player too early, right before he realizes his full potential. The Wizards franchise knows that feeling all too well.

This isn't the first time Beal has played well in the playoffs, but it is the first time he has played like this against an opponent as good as the Sixers are. It's also the first time he has been in the postseason in three years and a lot has changed in his game in the time since. He became a more complete playmaker and scorer as he took on a larger share of the offense while John Wall was injured.

Beal added to his game piece-by-piece to become the best scorer in the East two years running. That hard work and patience has paid off, and you can see it in his individual play so far in this series, regardless of the game results.