Washington Wizards rookie Bradley Beal achieved his tenth 20-point game Saturday in a down to the wire, 105-103 victory over James Harden and the visiting Houston Rockets. Beal led Washington with 21 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds, none bigger than his fifth and final board.
"Bradley makes plays," said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman after the game. "He has done it for us before, and I have faith that he will continue to. Against Oklahoma City he hit that big shot and tonight he got a crucial rebound to help seal the deal. I will certainly not let him off the hook for missing a free throw," Wittman joked, "but he played well tonight."
With the score tied 103-all following a Harden layup, Washington went for, in the words of Wittman, "whoever the little guy's on." The little guy happened to be 6-6 Rockets forward Carlos Delfino, who had the difficult task of guarding 6-10 Wizards center Emeka Okafor. Beal fed the ball to Okafor, who immediately backed up on Delfino. He rolled, drew help defense from Rockets center Omer Asik, and the game clock stopped with 5.2 seconds left in regulation.
Okafor sank his first of two free throws and missed his second, but a sneaky Bradley Beal happened to wrangle the loose board. He spun around the perimeter and burned precious seconds until he was fouled with 1.9 seconds remaining. Beal missed the first of his two looks from behind the line, incurred the comedic wrath of Wittman as a result, and swished the second.
"I thought Asik was going to box me out," said Beal postgame. "I kinda disguised it like I wasn't gonna go in. Most bigs, they don't ever box out a guard. It was a long rebound and I just ended jumping up for it. I was in the right place at the right time I guess."
Houston had no timeouts left after Beal's heroic rebound, yet Harden managed to force a heave from the front court. The shot appeared to be blocked partially by Trevor Ariza, who helped limit Harden in the second half of play. Ariza, however, didn't get credit.
"That's what we try to do period," said Ariza, regarding team defense. "We try to let our defense take charge in the game. We know we're a good defensive time so when we sit down and buckle up, we're pretty good." Perhaps the officials thought 18 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals off the bench was enough for Ariza, in a game in which the reserve small forward deserved some much deserved MVP votes. Beal didn't have the strength and size to guard Harden, and the duo of Martell Webster and Ariza helped control that match-up.
Harden reportedly walked out and refused to be interviewed. He finished the night with 27 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. Wizards guard John Wall finished with 12 points and 11 assists in his second straight double-double performance, while Emeka Okafor joined him with a 17 points, 11 rebounds double-double of his own.
Washington will visit the Toronto Raptors Monday (7:00 p.m. ET, CSN) looking to extend their streak to three. The Wizards fell to the Raptors at home last Tuesday in their first of four season meetings and will have a chance at tying up the season series while on the road.
Big night for Washington
The Wizards weren't the only D.C. team with a win Saturday. The Georgetown Hoyas beat the Syracuse Orangement 57-46 and Alexander Ovechkin scored a hat trick in a 5-1 Washington Capitals victory over the New Jersey Devils. The Washington Nationals, however, fell 5-3 to the New York Mets.
Crawford scores 10 points in Celtics debut
Former Wizards shooting guard Jordan Crawford made his Boston Celtics debut Friday with 10 points on 9 shots, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in a 113-88 Celtics victory over the Phoenix Suns. The Wizards will face Crawford and the Celtics in Boston on Sunday, April 7 (6:00 p.m. ET, CSN), in Washington's third and final meeting with the boys in green.