The Washington Wizards clinched the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with a 115-110 victory over the Charlotte Hornets, as they’ll now face off against the seventh-place Boston Celtics in the play-in tournament.
The winner of that game will clinch the seventh seed in the East. If the Wizards lose to the Celtics, then they’ll have to beat the winner of the Indiana Pacers vs. Hornets game to earn a spot in the playoffs, which would be the eighth and final seed in the East.
Bradley Beal, who had struggled to find any sort of rhythm in this game due to persistent discomfort with his hamstring injury, put up 13 points in the fourth including back-to-back tough finishes at the rim within the last three and a half minutes of the quarter. Beal finished with 25 points on the afternoon.
SCARY HOURS pic.twitter.com/OnbHmSRXpZ
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) May 16, 2021
“I can’t say enough about Brad’s toughness,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “The four years I’ve been here, there’s not a lot of guys that have his mental toughness and determination.”
Brooks didn’t stop there, as he gave us some insight on what meal Beal likes to start off his day with.
“Brad’s toughness, I say it all the time,” Brooks said. “He chews nails for breakfast… He should be proud.”
The only follow-up question to that is, with or without any milk?
In all seriousness, Beal deserves a lot of credit for gutting through his hamstring injury in order to give the Wizards better playoff positioning. Beal shot just 4-of-17 in the first 36 minutes of play, and within that stretch, he was very visibly hurting and frustrated, as he couldn’t get anything to drop despite finding his usual great looks.
Beal had every right to sit out the rest of the game, but he had his mind set on finishing it out, as he knew that even having him out there can be huge. Beal is more than capable of getting going at any given moment, but even if he struggles, he can serve as a decoy, which allows others to step up.
With Beal struggling in various instances, other players did indeed step up. Aside from Russell Westbrook‘s customary triple-double of 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, Robin Lopez and Rui Hachimura chipped in 18 and 16 points, respectively, and Ish Smith nearly put up a triple-double of his own with 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
The Wizards went down by as many as 16 points in the first, but it was a combination of Lopez’s post scoring and Smith’s ability to hit the pull-up jumper that gave the Hornets problems early in the second, as the Wizards were ultimately able to keep pace with the Hornets until the third, when Charlotte extended their lead back up to 15.
Beal and Westbrook provided the bulk of the scoring to bring the Wizards right back in it again, but timely contributions from Lopez, Smith and Hachimura provided Washington just the boost they needed to come away with this huge victory.
“This game mimicked our season,” Brooks said.
When you consider the type of up-and-down season the Wizards had, it’s pretty safe to say that Brooks is spot-on about this one.