- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Wizards’ season has largely been frustrating to everyone involved with the team, but on Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks, Bradley Beal carried a swagger like Washington’s record was irrelevant.

The Wizards star stared down center Salah Mejri after a vicious dunk. He waved off Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic’s complaints following a blocked shot. Time and time again, Beal unleashed his signature step back that’s become a staple of his game.

Behind his 30 points, Beal helped lift the Wizards in a 132-123 win. Washington (27-37) has now won three of its last four.

Beal had a reason for the extra edge.

“I really wanted to beat them,” Beal said. “It’s crazy, one of my college coaches (Larry Shyatt) is actually on their staff, so he gives me crap every time we play them, so I had a little more fire under me tonight.”

There was no better example of Beal’s oozing confidence than in the first quarter when he stormed toward the basketball and dunked over Mejri. The seven-footer was late on the switch, and Beal threw down the one-handed slam. Upon landing, Beal ferociously stared the center down.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Beal said he had already sought out the replay.

“I haven’t jumped like that probably since high school,” he said.

Beal, though, wasn’t the only star on the court Wednesday.

The game was also another stop in the Dirk Nowitzki retirement tour — except the Mavericks forward has repeatedly said he’s not sure if he’ll stop playing after this year. Nonetheless, opposing teams and fans have acted like this is the final season for Nowitzki, a 20-year veteran. Capital One Arena was no exception.

The crowd gave Nowitzki a standing ovation when he entered the game, and there was a “Thank You Dirk” displayed on the jumbotron. German Ambassador Emily Haber was even in attendance to see the 40-year-old, who received cheers every time he touched the ball.

Nowitzki also received “MVP” chants when at the foul line.

“I think our fans have it all wrong,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought that was a mistake on their part. They should have been chanting, ‘One more year. One more year.’ We all want to see him one more year. You don’t want him to leave. He’s done so much for the game.”

But Nowitzki was mostly a nonfactor on the court. The Wizards erased a 13-point deficit in the first half when the former MVP was in the game and went into halftime with a 69-65 lead.

Dallas, though, remained competitive with Doncic leading the way. The 19-year-old forward, drafted third overall, finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. He helped lead a fourth-quarter comeback that saw the Mavericks briefly take the lead.

The Wizards didn’t fold. Beal came through in pivotal moments, finding Jeff Green (16 points) for a wide-open 3-pointer and Jabari Parker (20 points) for a layup. In addition to his 30 points, Beal had eight assists.

“That was a big concern when John [Wall] went down – trying to figure out how we were going to be able to score,” Brooks said. “We scored more than I ever thought we could score, and we’re doing it all in different ways. Brad is stepping up and taking his game to another level.”

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