Fourth quarter, up by three, with less than five seconds remaining in the game.
That was the situation Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (28 points, 20 in the second half) was faced with Friday night as he caught the inbound pass and tried to escape the inevitable intentional foul.
Beal did escape and so did his team, as the Wizards notched their first win (1-3) of the season defeating the visiting Atlanta Hawks (3-2) 95-92.
It was a fitting scenario for the $128 million-man–who had been highly criticized for his lack of productivity in the team’s 0-3 start.
It wasn’t a flawless night by any stretch of the imagination for Beal (6-for-16 shooting from the field) and the Wizards as they committed 19 turnovers, shot just 39 percent from the field and nearly forfeited a fourth-quarter lead for the third time this season.
Fortunately, the Hawks were just as putrid. Turning the ball over 18 times, shooting just 38 percent from the field, including a 0-for-9 start that resulted in a 9-0 deficit.
A sizable lead to start the game typically signifies an easy night for any home team, but this is the 2016-17 Wizards. The same team that gave up an early 12-point lead in a loss to the visiting Toronto Raptors just two days prior.
Fans at the Verizon center couldn’t have been shocked to witness the team’s first quarter lead slowly dwindle and eventually, evaporate…again. The two teams would head into the second knotted at 19, thanks in part to five Wizards’ turnovers.
Regaining, blowing, then regaining again. That was the mantra tonight for the young Wizards.
Their lead swelled to as much as 16 in the second quarter thanks in large part to starting forward Markieff Morris. He poured in 11 of his 18 points in the quarter on 5-of-7 shooting, much to the delight of a struggling Wizards’ bench that was, yet again, stagnant on offense.
The Hawks second unit went on to outscore the Wizards bench 33-8.
Head Coach Scott Brooks has clearly been looking for answers in regards to switching up his lineups, which was evident by the season-high 22 minutes from rookie guard Tomas Satoranksy. But he, nor anybody on the bench, was able to stop relinquishing big leads.
The Wizards would again go up by double-digits deep into the third quarter, but behind the Hawks bench and newcomer Dwight Howard (20 points, 12 rebounds) their lead was trimmed to just eight as the fourth began.
John Wall– 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists–was held to 33 minutes because of a coach-imposed minute restriction due to his off-season surgery. He didn’t play in the fourth until the 8-minute mark, but he was influential in steadying the team when the Hawks crept closer.
He made a jumper and two free throws to keep the visitors from inching any closer than four points. Wall’s free throw with 6:35 remaining, gave the team a 82-76 lead.
Hawks guard Dennis Shroeder went to-to-toe with Wall all night (20 points, seven rebounds and three assists) and the fourth proved to be no different. His short basket with less than five minutes remaining, pulled them to within two, 82-80.
From that point forward, it was the Beal show as the Wizards guard scored seven of the last 11 points, sealing a much-needed victory.