What Washington Wizards Need from Bradley Beal in NBA Playoffs

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What Washington Wizards Need from Bradley Beal in NBA Playoffs
Nam Y. Huh
Although the Washington Wizards won Game 1 against the Chicago Bulls because of the play of Nene and Marcin Gortat, they need better play from Bradley Beal and John Wall going forward.

The Washington Wizards got off to the best start possible in their playoff series against the Chicago Bulls.

Washington showed they can find ways to score against the strong Chicago defense (even when Bradley Beal and John Wall aren't shooting well), and they captured Game 1 on the road. 

Coming into the series, the Wizards knew they were entering a series that could potentially go seven games, and a series that was going to be physically taxing against one of the best defenses in the NBA

In Game 1 Sunday night, Beal had some playoff jitters in his first-ever postseason game, only shooting 3-for-11 in over 40 minutes of playing time. However, the Wizards were able to run their offense through their big men and they outscored Chicago 30-18 in the fourth quarter to take the win. 

Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls comparison by NBA ranking
Team PPG Opp. PPG FG% Opp. FG%
Washington 16th 9th 12th 18th
Chicago 30th 1st 30th 2nd

NBA.com/Stats

This gives the Wizards confidence going forward, as Wall explained to the Washington Post's Michael Lee after the game, saying, "I know I can play better offensively, but to get a win like this and have my teammates step up when I didn’t have a good game is big for us."

For the remainder of the series, Washington will want a better performance from their young backcourt of Wall and Beal, and putting too many minutes on Nene could be an issue going forward in the series, given his string of injuries this season. 

Beal will have to start playing better, given that Chicago's offense is basically designed to slow down players like Wall. These are three things that Beal can do to help the Wizards capture three more games and take the series to advance to the conference semifinals. 

 

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images
The Wizards are a worse team than Chicago at getting to the charity stripe, but Beal made all seven of his free-throws in Game 1 against the Bulls.

Get to the foul line

Beal is not known as a player who can drive to the basket, but for this series, he needs to take more chances at getting to the hoop and drawing fouls.

He has a tendency to settle for mid-range shots, which often don't fall. During the regular season, Beal attempted 519 shots from mid-range but only made 37.2 percent of his shots from that area—compared to 57.3 percent shooting from inside the restricted area. 

Chicago's offense relies on drawing fouls and wearing down their opponents, something that the Wizards did better than them on Sunday. Washington attempted 35 free throws compared to 26 from the Bulls. During the first quarter, the Bulls had the Wizards into the bonus with about five minutes left. 

Overall, Washington's big men did a great job of drawing fouls early on in the game and Beal made all seven of his free-throw attempts. That needs to be a continuing theme for Beal for the rest of the season. 

In the regular season, the Wizards ranked 25th in the league in free throws attempted per game, while the Bulls were ranked 15th in that category. Beal's free-throw attempts also decreased this year compared to his rookie campaign.

Chicago is too good of a defensive team for Beal to settle for those mid-range shots, especially facing Jimmy Butler, who is one of the best defensive shooting guards in the NBA and can guard three different positions on the floor. 

Beal's best chance at scoring points is to get to the basket and draw fouls. The more fouls Washington can get down low on Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, the better. 

 

One of Beal's greatest strengths is finding openings for threes on the perimeter, as he did back in January when he had six threes against the Sacramento Kings.

Find openings on the wings

All season, Washington has relied on corner three-pointers to pick up a good portion of their points. They tied for fourth in the league in three-point percentage during the regular season, while the Bulls were 24th. 

Beal is one of the Wizards' best three-point shooters, and their ability to shoot from the perimeter is a huge offensive advantage over Chicago, which mainly scores in the paint. 

In the regular season, Beal made over 40 percent of his three-point shots and attempted just under 10 percent of his shots from the corners. 

Butler is a player who's going to play over 40 minutes per game, and he has no problem guarding Beal on the perimeter. But when there's an opening, Beal needs to make his three-pointers. 

On Sunday, Beal missed both of his threes, but if Wall is able to drive to the basket and kick it out to Beal, even making 35 percent of those shots would give them a distinctive advantage over Chicago on offense. 

This season, Beal made 41.9 percent of his shots in catch-and-shoot situations, averaging 5.8 points per game on those shots. 

Between Beal, Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza, the Wizards can score in droves from the perimeter, something the Bulls can't match when they are on offense. 

 

Nam Y. Huh
Beal and the rest of the Wizards can slow down Chicago's offense even more if they are able to cut off passing lanes from Joakim Noah.

Cut off passing lanes

The Bulls certainly aren't the best shooting team, but they do have the ability to pass the ball well to produce points. They averaged 22.7 assists per game in the regular season and were tied with Washington in assist-to-basket ratio, according to ESPN

Although Beal isn't the strongest defender, he could still help the Wizards by cutting off passing lanes to whoever he is covering, most likely Butler or D.J. Augustin. Augustin shot 42.5 percent in catch-and-shoot situations this year, while Butler shot 34.3.

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Beal only averaged one steal per game this season, but if he can tip a few passes to interrupt Chicago's rhythm, it would slow down Chicago's already sputtering offense.

Wall and Beal also make up one of the best backcourts in transition. Any steals will almost always lead to a basket or a foul at the other end of the floor with Wall handling the ball.

On defense, Beal often sags too far off his defender. Chicago's offense basically runs through Noah, who can pass the ball, and if he plays tighter on his man and interrupts even two or three passes, it would cut down on their already small number of scoring chances.

As Thomas Pruitt of Bullets Forever wrote in his game preview for Sunday:

No one on this team can really score. Their best options are D.J. Augustin, a streaky shooter who can catch fire from time to time but lacks the size and athleticism to finish plays at the rim, and Noah, who's become an elite facilitator but still isn't someone who can lead an above average offense.

Washington won Game 1 with stingy defense, and that needs to be a common theme for this team for the remainder of the playoffs, even if they advance out of the first round. Having Beal cut off passing lanes on the perimeter from Noah at the top of the key would give the defense a huge boost. 

 

Note: All stats were courtesy of NBA.com/Stats unless otherwise noted.

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