Despite the loss, Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal enjoyed himself Sunday as the Wizards played their first playoff game in three years.
"I was like a kid in a candy shop today. I was excited ... to be back on this stage," Beal told reporters after the Wizards' 125-118 loss to the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
Beal dropped 33 points and added 10 rebounds in the loss.
His point total, which led the Wizards in front of 16 points from Russell Westbrook, came despite a hamstring injury he told reporters is "trending in the right direction." He missed three of the team's last four regular-season outings with the injury.
The Wizards had to fight their way into the postseason, earning their spot against the 76ers in the play-in tournament. After a 118-100 loss to the Boston Celtics in the first play-in game, the Wizards secured the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference bracket by defeating the Indiana Pacers 142-115.
Beal had 25 points in that game, which came two days after he dropped 22 against Boston.
The team's recent postseason struggles are nothing like what Beal had been used to over the start of his career in Washington, which began when they drafted him out of Florida with the No. 3 overall pick in 2012.
From 2013-18, the Wizards made the postseason four times and advanced at least one round in three of those seasons.
This season, things looked like they could end up with another missed postseason, but the Wizards won 17 of their final 23 games leading up to the play-in tournament.
"It’s been amazing and it’s all I’ve been caring about and all I’ve been focusing on," Beal said Monday of the potential playoff bout.
With a potential contender as an opponent in Philadelphia, Beal will have to keep it up if he wants the Wizards to move past the first round for the first time since 2017.