- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bradley Beal buried his head in a towel, while John Wall and Marcin Gortat chirped on the bench next to him.

The Wizards had hardly anything go right in Game 2’s 130-119 loss Tuesday to the Toronto Raptors. While they had a 23-point lead cut down to five points in the fourth quarter, the Raptors pulled away once DeMar DeRozan checked back in.

But for Beal, especially, it was easy to see why his hands were glued to his face on the bench.

On Tuesday, Beal finished with the worst plus-minus of any Wizards player in the last 20 postseasons, according to ESPN’s stats and information. His minus-34 meant the Wizards were outscored by 34 points with him on the floor.

Through two games, Beal has been a nonfactor against the Raptors.

Obviously, the Wizards must find offense from their All-Star guard to have any shot at advancing in the playoffs. In fact, they might need a solid outing from Beal to win a game, at this point.

“The Raptors are doing a good job of being physical with him,” coach Scott Brooks told reporters in Toronto. “He’s missed some open shots. He hasn’t been able to get to the lane and get to the free throw line. That’s a little bit on him, a little bit on me, a little bit on John.

“We need him.”

Brooks’ point about Beal’s struggles being “a little bit” on Wall is a curious one. Is Wall not doing a good enough job of finding Beal? There’s a good case for “yes.”

Wall recorded nine assists in Game 2, none of them to Beal. Of Beal’s 11 field goal attempts, two of them would have been assists from Wall, if Beal had made the shot. Adding to the Wizards’ playoff misery, Wall recorded 2.8 assists per game to Beal in the regular season. That number is just one per game this postseason.

But don’t place all the blame on Wall. Beal hasn’t lived up to his normal level of production. While he shot the ball well (47 percent) in Game 1, the Raptors will live with the fact that it took 17 shots for him to score 19. In Game 2, he was even worse, going just 3-for-11 for nine points.

And here’s the thing: Raptors coach Dwane Casey admitted they aren’t doing anything special on Beal.

“He’s missed some good shots,” Casey said. “We haven’t stopped him.”

The NBA classifies “open” shots as attempts taken with the closest defender being 4-6 feet from the ball, and “wide open” if a player is open by more than 6 feet. Against the Raptors, Beal is just 2-of-9 on “open” looks and 2-of-7 on “wide open” attempts.

For those doing the math, that’s a measly 25 percent combined.

The numbers get worse when you consider Beal has taken 28 field goal attempts total in two games. He’s just not making good looks like before. Beal made 46.4 percent of his field goals this season when taking open to wide-open shots.

It’s not a shock the Wizards are having trouble defending, or they don’t have the depth to match Toronto’s reserves. But Beal is a crux of the Wizards’ offense — and has a great track record against the Raptors.

During the regular season, he averaged nearly 29 points per game in four meetings with Toronto. Those performances came without Wall, too, so he thrived despite the extra attention.

Foul trouble might have thrown off his rhythm in Game 2. He finished with four fouls, two coming in the first quarter. He played only 25 minutes, compared to 41 in Game 1.

Minutes are an interesting place to look. Beal played all 82 games for the first time in his career this season, notching a career-high 36.1 minutes per game. Add in the fact that Wall missed 40 games, maybe Beal is worn down.

Beal brushed aside those concerns.

“It does wear on you, and you do get tired, but that’s a mental thing,” Beal said. “That’s not an excuse for me.”

Beal will have two days to sort it out. The Wizards were off Wednesday, and will practice Thursday. Game 3 is Friday at 8 p.m. at Capital One Arena.

The Wizards climbed out of an 0-2 hole last year against the Boston Celtics to force a Game 7. But in that series, Beal was a force.

“I know he will be very tough on himself,” Wall said. “He is definitely going to get in the gym and get up extra shots and find ways to be more aggressive. We definitely need his scoring and his ability to create for others to make our team better and compete against this team.”

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