Bradley Beal has made it clear: Clutch time is his. Though he may spend the majority of games as he did Wednesday night — finding open teammates when defenses turn aggressive and orchestrating pick-and-rolls with Thomas Bryant, the bundle of energy the Washington Wizards call their center — Beal will be the one taking over when it matters.
When the Atlanta Hawks tied the score with 6:44 remaining at Capital One Arena, Beal’s first instinct wasn’t to pass the ball 30 feet from the basket or wait for Bryant to set a high screen. Beal dribbled into DeAndre’ Bembry, whose fluttering feet couldn’t keep up, before attacking Alex Len, the 7-foot-1 blockade at the rim. Beal didn’t give up the ball, and for the next several possessions with the outcome still in doubt, the game was in his capable hands.
The Wizards may encourage shot distribution and ball movement as the response to John Wall’s absence due to upcoming season-ending surgery, and their collective ownership aided in Wednesday night’s 114-98 win. And even though there’s truth in the notion that it will take a village to chase a playoff seed without its franchise point guard, Washington still needs a star willing to seize the spotlight. For the remaining 44 games, Beal is welcoming the added pressure.