You could excuse a Wizards fan if they were worried about Bradley Beal a couple months ago. The rookie from Florida seemed overwhelmed, small and timid on the court back then. It'd be one thing if he was just missing a lot of shots, but he didn't even come close to carrying himself like the No. 3 pick in the draft.
Boy, have things changed since then.
Beal's development over the past month and a half has been beautiful to see, and everything culminated in by far his best game as a pro against the Milwaukee Bucks Monday. Beal came off the bench firing, scoring 16 first-half points and 28 in the game to carry the Wizards to a statement 102-90 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Thanks to Beal's efforts, the Wizards' big homestand will not be wasted. Now, there's reason for positive momentum.
There were other heroes, of course. Nene had one of his best games of the season, scoring 21 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and notching six assists while dominating Samuel Dalembert. While Beal was fantastic all game, it was Nene who killed off Milwaukee's last gasp with a layup and steal on successive possessions. John Wall had seven turnovers, sure, but he also helped hold Brandon Jennings to 3-17 shooting, showing more fundamental man-to-man defense than we've seen all year. Chris Singleton didn't shoot well, but he once again allowed the Wizards to get away with playing small for big stretches of the game.
But this game was about Beal, first and foremost. He's no longer waiting for plays to develop before making them. He's now attacking every opening, shooting with complete confidence and showing why he is a coach's favorite. There's so much that Beal can do that you never focus on him not being the classic isolation-heavy scoring guard. Compare Beal's solid floor game to Monta Ellis' freelancing, and you can see why Beal was such a high pick in this year's draft. When you can produce and do it so easily within the flow of the game, you have so much value in an NBA that has become increasingly team-oriented on both ends of the floor.
Hopefully, his wrist is OK. That's about the only thing that can put a damper on one of the most satisfying wins of the season.