- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Washington Wizards earned a 117-113 overtime victory Tuesday over the Miami Heat, but missed a chance to end the game in regulation.

As the shot clock ticked down, Bradley Beal drove in for a step-back jumper that clanged off the front of the rim Beal had a good look, but the shot wouldn’t fall.

It’s been that type of year for Beal.

The Wizards guard has taken the NBA’s second-most shot attempts when his team is either tied or trailing by a span of three points in the final 10 seconds of games. That means when games are close, the Wizards look for Beal to bail them out. Only Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook has taken more attempts, 11 to Beal’s 10.

But in what the NBA defines as clutch situations, Beal is just 1-for-10.

His lone make was a drive to the rim in a Dec. 2 game against the Los Angeles Clippers, who still won the game on a Lou Williams 3-pointer.

“I’ve got a thousand more to go,” Beal said. “It doesn’t bother me. It was a solid look. … Like I always say, win or lose, it’s going to be on my shoulders, so if we went down, I’ll take it.”

According to the NBA, a clutch situation is a game in which the score is within five points during the final five minutes. Beal’s 10 attempts fall into that category, but were narrowed down further for the specific situation the Wizards found themselves in against the Heat.

Still, it’s probably wrong to overreact to Beal’s lack of success. Westbrook has only made four of his 11 tries. Portland’s Damian Lillard is second in the league with three made field goals on eight attempts. Westbrook, Lillard and Beal are among 20 of the best players in the NBA. This stuff is hard.

The Wizards, though, shoot the third-worst percentage among teams that have a game within three points. They are just 1-for-16. The Charlotte Hornets and the Philadelphia 76ers are the only teams that shoot worse — they haven’t hit a clutch field goal this season.

Some of these troubles might be playcalling, or the lack of execution.

For Beal’s attempt against the Heat, coach Scott Brooks said the Wizards didn’t react correctly to the defense.

“I thought we were trying to get the matchup that we wanted and they did a good job of not switching,” Brooks said. “But we were supposed to counter that with another screen.”

In general, Beal is shooting just 32 percent and 23 percent from deep in the clutch. Of the players with at least 20 made field goals in the clutch, Beal is shooting the worst.

It’s easy to assume Beal’s struggles come from not having John Wall on the court. When Wall is in the game, he attracts just as much, if not more, attention. Hypothetically that should create room for Beal. But Wall’s numbers aren’t much better in the clutch — and he was on the floor for 21 of the Wizards’ 37 clutch games.

As a team, the Wizards are shooting 39 percent in the clutch, which ranks 23rd. They are 20-17 in those games.

Last season, Beal shot 43 percent in the clutch and his 154 points ranked ninth in the league. Those numbers are relatively good.

But failures — like the would-be game-winners that both Wall and Beal missed at the end of last season’s Game 2 playoff loss to the Boston Celtics — have a way of attaching themselves to a player’s legacy.

“I’m only going to be in that situation for the rest of my career,” Beal said, “so I better get used to it. It’ll start going in.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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