With John Wall out of the lineup in Game 2, the Wizards turned to Bradley Beal to be the catalyst for their offense. He had the highest usage rate on the team (28 percent) in Game 2. He also took the most shots and had 83 touches, the second most of any Wizard, according to NBA.com's Player Tracking. He finished the game with 20 points on 22 shots, seven assists and three turnovers. That isn't the best line for a player who's using up most of your possessions.
Beal wasn't awful last night, but his decision making early on was off and that was one of the main reasons the Wizards' offense could not get into the flow it has been in throughout the playoffs. At several points, the Wizards reverted back to their regular season offense, taking midrange jumper after midrange jumper and giving away the ball on poorly timed passes. With just one minute left in the first quarter, the Wizards only had one assist. With 5:30 left in the second quarter, they had six assists to seven turnovers.
Still, there were plenty of opportunities to move the ball for open shots, mostly thanks to Beal's creation. When Beal had the ball, the Hawks defense loaded up and collapsed from the weakside.
All five Hawks had a foot in the paint and directed their attention toward Beal. There wasn't a lane to drive, but Beal tried to penetrate anyway even with Paul Pierce and Ramon Sessions wide open on the wing and corner respectively.
The Hawks defense committed heavily to Beal's drive and weren't punished for it. Typically, the Hawks will leave the weakside open on defense to help on drives and post-ups. They know most teams aren't able to skip the ball over with one pass and are very quick to rotate.
This is where the Wizards miss Wall the most. Beal's strength is scoring and shooting. He has a bit of a solid handle on the ball, but only when it comes to getting his own shot. He's not going to see Pierce and Sessions in the corner or know to make that play in rhythm early on because it is outside of his role. So once he tries to turn the corner, he doesn't think to make the easy pass one man over.
This was a common theme for Beal throughout the game, but especially early on. Throughout the year the team has said they want him to be aggressive, but in Game 2 he was too aggressive at times and forced up awful looks with time to spare on the clock.
The shot he forced in the previous screenshot was with 10 seconds left on the shot clock and two shooters wide open one pass away on the weak side of the floor. Here's another where Beal gets the shot up with 9 seconds left on the shot clock and teammates open.
Beal doesn't read the defense, yet he was the only one aside from Gortat to touch the ball on this possession. He's falling into the Hawks' trap. Because the ball stuck with Beal, they were able to overload the strongside, and Beal can't make them pay.
Beal has to be able to make these plays if he is going to be the primary option with Wall out. Sessions is a good creator, but the Wizards can't rely on him to play like he did in Game 2. His performance was admirable, but we shouldn't expect that from him if Wall has to miss a significant amount of time.
The Wizards need Beal to make plays to keep the Hawks' defense honest. He did that later in the second quarter and in the second half when the Wizards started to claw their way back into the game.
He did a great job here of keeping up the pace and finding a wide open Ramon Sessions in the corner as well. He created a semi-transition opportunity for the Wizards--something we commonly see from Wall when he's at his best.
Beal had seven assists on the game, which is a good sign. He's never really been known as a ball stopper and has sometimes needed to be pushed to be the aggressive scorer the Wizards want him to be. He's not just a shooter, he can handle the ball and create.
That's what makes him the perfect combination player with Wall. When Wall attacks and breaks the defense down he can kick to Beal who can either shoot or attack the closeout.
And this isn't an attack on Beal or his game--this is just pointing out that it is difficult for players to adjust roles in the midst of a playoff series. Especially when that series is against the number one seed and best team in the East. It's a tough transition to make on such short notice.
But Beal can't have another game where 12 of his 22 shots are contested. He made just two of those 12 contested shots and that isn't good offense. He tried to take too much on in game 2, but should adjust in game 3 if Wall remains out. Beal has to trust his teammates in these situations. If he does, the Wizards will be right there once
All statistical support brought via NBA.com's stats tool.