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Beal sets another career high, but Wizards come up just short against Bucks

Feb 25. 2020
Bradley Beal beats Giannis Antetokounmpo to the rim Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Toni L. Sandys
Bradley Beal beats Giannis Antetokounmpo to the rim Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Toni L. Sandys
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By The Washington Post · Candace Buckner · SPORTS, BASKETBALL 

WASHINGTON - Bradley Beal raised his arms in anticipation as his teammate Troy Brown Jr. lofted the three-point attempt. Beal's eyes were on the rim, and that circular piece of carbon steel had been kind to him throughout Monday night as he set another career scoring mark, just one night after recording his previous high. But as Brown's potential tying three-pointer bounced out, Beal had to lower his hands.

Beal had touched greatness at Capital One Arena, scoring like he never had before, but he would not be able to grab a win from the NBA's best team.

The Washington Wizards lost, 137-134, in overtime to the Milwaukee Bucks, after Beal took over for the second straight night only to fall short again. Beal finished with 55 points - shooting 19 for 33 overall and 8 for 13 from the three-point line - after going for 53 Sunday in a loss to the Chicago Bulls. His individual masterpiece, as well as the Wizards' collective effort against their elite opponents, shined through despite the loss.

Washington trailed by as many as 20 points in the third quarter and spent much of the second half aiming to pull off the improbable. Beal, as he has all season, tried to save his team from defeat almost singlehandedly. 

Beal checked back into the game with 7:50 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Wizards trailing by 10. He scored his team's next 17 points, splashing assisted three-pointers, dunking with fury and drilling a midrange jumper over two defenders. When Beal found some breathing room after Moritz Wagner screened Milwaukee guard George Hill, he connected on another three and trimmed Washington's deficit to just 119-116 with 2:16 left in regulation.

The margin was still three with 1:36 to play when Wagner stepped in to a take a charge against Giannis Antetokounmpo, drawing the reigning MVP into his sixth foul. Antetokounmpo finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds in 25 minutes.

The strong defense led to opportunistic offense on the other end, and Beal swished yet another long-range shot to tie the score at 121 with 1:23 left.

Beal pulled the Wizards ahead by four points with less than two minutes left in overtime, but he couldn't always do everything by himself. He committed three turnovers in overtime, the last one coming with 43.3 seconds remaining and the score tied. Bucks all-star forward Khris Middleton, who scored 40 points, nailed the decisive three with 31.2 seconds to play, and Milwaukee improved its league-best record to 49-8.

The Wizards (20-36) lost their third straight game, but this time they showed fight.

After Sunday's loss in Chicago, Wizards Coach Scott Brooks shared criticism that no professional athlete would want to hear.

"We're playing soft," Brooks said.

The rebuke, and a night of self-reflection among the players, clearly had an effect.

Wizards rookie forward Rui Hachimura defended Antetokounmpo, and while the matchup between the reigning MVP and a first-year player sometimes went about as expected, Hachimura battled.

Antetokounmpo wasted little time before trying the young player with one of his steamrolling drives, but Hachimura slowed him down and forced a pass. Antetokounmpo had his moments - on one early possession, he hooked Hachimura, keeping him behind the play as he snaked into the lane for a nifty reverse layup - but he didn't take over the game.

Even without a major scoring contribution from Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee went up 71-51 with 8:29 left in the third quarter, and four other players reached double-digit scoring by the end of the period. 

The Wizards could have folded, playing without top three-point shooter Davis Bertans because of a knee injury or center Thomas Bryant, who sat out the second night of a back-to-back as he eases back from his foot injury. But Beal nearly carried them to the upset, with help from Shabazz Napier, who finished with 27 points. The win, however, ultimately escaped their grasp.


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