On Thursday, Bradley Beal celebrated his first All-Star selection with one of his finest performances of the season against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After a discouraging first half, in which the Wizards only scored 40 points, Beal got the team going with a pair of three-pointers in the first two minutes of the half. His shots kicked off a 28-14 run which erased the team’s 14-point halftime deficit before the end of the third quarter.
The Thunder wound up winning in the end, but Beal did everything he could to keep Washington in the game. He had 18 points in the fourth quarter against the Thunder’s stout defense. He made strong moves to get open and took aggressive shots when he found slivers of daylight.
Beal hit the 40-point mark for the third time this season, and became the youngest player in NBA history to make 780 career three-pointers in the process. Yet, it was not enough to save Washington from another loss.
“I’m pissed,” Beal said after the game. “We fought hard. We competed but it wasn’t enough. Myself included. I turned the ball over too much [he had five turnovers on the night]. I could’ve boxed out a few times, got some rebounds. I think the turnovers definitely hurt more than anything.”
Turnovers have been an issue in recent weeks, and the Thunder game was no exception. The team committed 23 turnovers, marking the third time this month they’ve committed at least 20 turnovers, after only doing it twice all season prior to January.
Oklahoma City’s length created issues, but Washington didn’t help the cause with some of their careless passes on the perimeter. The Wizards’ turnovers led to 36 points for the Thunder, which fueled a big night for Russell Westbrook, who finished with 46 points on the night.
While Brooks continues to find a solution to Washington’s defense and turnover issues, he should be mindful of an even bigger issue: Managing Beal’s minutes. He played 45 minutes against Oklahoma City, including all 24 minutes in the second half. He’s played over 40 minutes in six of the last nine games as Jodie Meeks has become a smaller part of the team’s rotation.
The decision to play Meeks less is understandable given his struggles, but it puts Beal in a tough spot, because there isn’t another option to back up Beal. Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre can fill in at times, but shifting them over to backup shooting guard just moves the problem to another position.
It’s becoming clear the Wizards will need to make a move before the trade deadline to add depth behind Beal. Otherwise, Washington will burn him out with inspiring, but fruitless performances like Thursday’s loss to Oklahoma City.