NBA

Bradley Beal Is Playing Like He Has Something to Prove

Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal should be on the shortlist of superstars in the NBA. His latest performance, turning in back-to-back 53+ point games, was like a howl at the moon to be noticed.

Dedicated NBA heads know all about the 2013 All-Rookie pick. They cheered him on as he was finally named to the NBA All-Star team twice, in 2018 and 2019. But casual fans demand championships. The Wizards, with their 21-36 record so far, struggle to win regular-season games. Because of this, Beal instead finds his fame in a rare corner of the NBA all-time records.

Bradley Beal’s historic back-to-back 53+ point games

Bradley Beal scored 53 points against the Chicago Bulls. The long-suffering Bulls likely left open a great deal of space open for Beal to dominate, one might assume. Then, he scored even more against the ascendant Milwaukee Bucks the very next night. This time, Beal dropped 55 points against the playoff favorites.

It was the first time an NBA player turned in 50 point performances on back-to-back nights since the late Kobe Bryant did it in 2007. Bryant edges out Beal just slightly, with 110 points in a 48 hour period to the Wizards star’s 108.

The NBA’s strange reaction to Bradley Beal’s scoring

Since getting drafted in 2012, Bradley Beal’s always been on the path to superstardom. His fatal flaw is simply being on a team that doesn’t have much to back him up with in 2020.

Still, his sudden explosion in scoring, especially on night two against the Bucks, apparently raised some eyebrows in the league. Beal was subject to a drug test almost immediately.

Beal’s streak ended against the Brooklyn Nets, who went with the box-and-one to keep him contained. This time, Beal put up 30 points — a standard score for a star player without any doping accusations floating above their heads. The Wizards won the game.

Given that Beal averaged 31.2 points in the Wizards’ last six wins, and 41.4 points in their last seven losses since January 26th, there is an easy drug-free explanation. When the rest of the team doesn’t show up, Beal fills in the gaps.

The only other two players in NBA history to match this scoring feat

Only six players in NBA history have turned in two 50+ point games on back-to-back nights: Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Bernard King, Elgin Baylor, and Wilt Chamberlain.

If one accounts for Beal’s 53+ points scored, and allow for a day of rest in between? He joins a list of players that is vanishingly small: Wilt Chamberlain and Houston Rockets step back three king James Harden.

That both Beal and Harden are active at the same time says a great deal about the level of scoring expected from superstars in today’s game. And much of that comes from the field.

Against the Bucks, in particular, Beal showed incredible prowess at the three-point line. His 55 point performance was bolstered by a personal record eight three-point shots. That keeps him competitive with Harden’s much-vaunted sniping ability.

Why Beal gets left behind in NBA coverage

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Bradley Beal made history with his scoring. The aspect of it we haven’t mentioned is how the games unfolded around him. The Wizards lost both, just as Chamberlain suffered the odd fate of losing back-to-back 53+ point games in 1962. With the ever-reliable point guard John Wall out for the year with a ruptured Achilles, the Wizards are out of options to help Beal help them.

This leaves Beal in the awkward position of being a superstar on a terrible team. In a league known for squads getting carried by just one or two key figures, the Wizards serve as a reminder that role players are still crucial in today’s game.

If Beal has no hope for getting some rings on his fingers, his raw talent has muscled him into the record books, at least. He turned in a rare feat with his scoring streak, one that deserves to be noticed.