Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal played 55 of 58 possible minutes in Sunday’s 140-138 double-overtime loss to Eastern Conference-leading Toronto.
He fueled the 40-point fourth-quarter that allowed Washington to rally from a 23-point deficit and joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history with multiple games of over 40 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in the same season.
Both outbursts have come in the Wizards’ last dozen outings.
Barring injury, Beal will make his second All-Star appearance in February. He has emerged from the shadow of backcourt mate John Wall, who will miss the remainder of the season due to a heel injury that required surgery. Wall saw his final action on Dec. 26.
Washington is 5-4 without him entering Thursday’s contest against the New York Knicks in London and have pulled off upsets against the Bucks, 76ers and Thunder over the past few weeks.
What remains to be seen is whether Beal can keep up his current pace in order to prevent the Wizards from finishing among the NBA’s biggest disappointments.
Washington was a heavy 2-to-3 favorite to win the Southeast Division according to the Westgate SuperBook when the season began, ranked ahead of Miami (7/5) and longshots Charlotte (12/1), Orlando (50/1) and Atlanta (100/1). It enters this week of action ahead of only the Hawks in the standings, trailing the first-place Heat by 4.5 games.
The Wizards were 25-to-1 to win the East back in mid-October but are now 400-to-1 at Westgate. Their regular-season win total was set at 46, which means they would have to win roughly three of every four games the rest of the way to cash on the “over.”
Anyone who laid -1000 (1/10) odds on them reaching the playoffs has to be bracing for the worst, while those who faded a postseason appearance have a good a shot at a really nice payday since a ‘no’ wager on a prop asking whether Washington would qualify went off at 6-to-1 (+600).
The season remains salvageable only because of how terribly their division has collectively performed. Only Miami reached the season’s halfway point above .500.
In the 11 games he’s played without Wall this season, Beal is averaging 34.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists.
That’s approaching James Harden territory. He’s getting the ball out quickly when extra bodies run his way and has even managed three steals in three of his last four outings.
The 25-year-old is averaging four 3-pointers in nine attempts per game this month, shooting nearly 44 percent from beyond the arc.
With Beal as the catalyst, a group featuring veterans Otto Porter, Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green and Ian Mahinmi in addition to young pieces Thomas Bryant, Tomas Satoransky and teenage rookie Troy Brown, Jr. are getting the bulk of the work.
Head coach Scott Brooks won’t have center Dwight Howard and power forward Markieff Morris for at least another month, so the plan for now is to win enough games to stay afloat.
Lakers at Rockets (Saturday): Our first selection for the week doubles back to catch up with Houston and James Harden, who continued his remarkable scoring run with a season-high 57 points in just 34 minutes against the Grizzlies on Monday.
The reigning MVP’s task of rescuing the injury-riddled Rockets was made tougher earlier in the day when center Clint Capela was ruled out for at least a month after suffering ligament damage to his right thumb. But Harden continues to dominate with unprecedented efficiency.
With LeBron James still out, offense has been hard to come by for the Lakers. That hasn’t been a problem for Harden, ROCKETS
Pistons at Wizards (Monday): Expect the Wizards to play another high-scoring game in their next game in D.C. against the Pistons upon their return from England.
Although totals for their games have steadily been around 227 over the past few weeks, Brooks’ shortened rotation and improved offensive efficiency with Beal at the controls has seen Washington average just shy of 120 points per game since Dec. 30. OVER
Last week: 0-1
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