Such was the severity of the Washington Wizards’ 122-95 loss to the Miami Heat.
“Honestly I wasn’t discouraged, I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t upset. It was honestly a matter of time of when I would have one of these games,” Beal said on a postgame videoconference before joking, “. . . I knew it wasn’t me. I had to blame the ball, the rim, or something, but it wasn’t me.”
Beal’s rare off night made the loss feel even more miserable as the Wizards fell to 5-14 and bungled their shot at notching back-to-back wins for just the second time this season. The guard, who leads the NBA in scoring and had the most all-star fan votes of any Eastern Conference guard by a healthy margin when the league released its first voting totals Thursday, had his lowest scoring game since he had seven points Dec. 23, 2018.
He matched that tally Friday, scoring seven points while missing 13 of his 14 shots from the field, including missing six of seven from beyond the arc. His deep ball in the third quarter was his lone field goal, and the game was the first one this year in which he failed to score at least 25 points, ending his record-breaking streak.
Beal’s o-for-12 shooting performance in the first half is tied for the most attempts in a half without a make over the last 25 seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
“Every human being is due for a bad day,” Beal said.
Without Beal to prop up the team and with Russell Westbrook offering a mediocre 13 points in his stead, Washington had next to no chance at matching Heat center Bam Adebayo and his supporting cast. Kendrick Nunn had a game-high 25 points, but it was Adebayo’s 21-point performance — including an astounding 11 for 11 from the free throw line in the first quarter — that got the Heat up and running with a new rotation Coach Erik Spoelstra debuted Friday, in part to contend with Westbrook.
Goran Dragic started, Tyler Herro came off the bench, and the switch worked — Miami shot 49 percent from the field and 43 percent from three and successfully shrouded Beal in bodies nearly every time he touched the ball.
“Jimmy [Butler] was the main matchup, and we know he’s a good defender,” Beal said. “Granted, a lot of shots felt good, they came up short. But a lot of them were like, indecisive kind of. I think I had like two threes where guys were just standing, so I just shot it. We’ve got to get out of those type shots and out of those type of rhythms on the offense and get body movement, get ball movement, get guys side-to-side to give me some advantages.”
The all-star guard has said all week that the team’s biggest issue is its inconsistent performances. The Wizards showed off capable defense in a win Wednesday and shoddy defending Friday, closed out strong in the fourth quarter of a thrilling win Sunday and fell apart down the stretch in a loss Tuesday. The only steady habit Washington seems to have is its poor starts.
In that category, Friday’s game was the worst of the bunch — the Wizards fell into a 28-point hole in the first half with Beal fading into the background. They looked so lifeless in the first quarter when the Heat tallied 40 points that Coach Scott Brooks said the loss had nothing to do with Beal’s proverbial absence and everything to do with the team’s mind-set in general.
“They came out, you could tell, they came out like a team that just got beat the night before by the same team,” Brooks said. “We knew that, obviously. But we didn’t come in with that mind-set that this is going to be a fight, and we didn’t step up to that challenge.”
Former Maryland center Alex Len proved handy late in the game and led Washington with 18 points to go with three rebounds. Rui Hachimura chipped in with 12 points. Starting center Robin Lopez led the team with seven boards on an abysmal defensive outing from the team.
The only optimism Brooks could offer after was that Beal’s bad game was probably just an outlier.
“One thing about Brad, I’ve coached him now for five years, he’s one of the best I’ve had in his bounce-back ability,” Brooks said. “I expect him to come back and have the game that I know he’s capable of having.”