- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Bradley Beal stood at the scorer’s table Tuesday almost midway through the fourth quarter with a smile, ready to check in for the final portion of Tuesday’s game against the Chicago Bulls. The Wizards had led by double digits, and Beal’s return, in theory, was to help preserve the win.

Along the way, Beal’s grin disappeared. He and his teammates had to refocus.

Fortunately for the Wizards, they did.

The Wizards held on for a 126-114 win, despite the Bulls trailing by as few as six points within the last three minutes. Washington had led by as many as 21, but made a few clutch shots late to seal the victory.

Beal led the Wizards with 30 points, going 12-of-23 from the field.

In a battle of the snubbed All-Stars, Beal and Chicago’s Zach LaVine each had terrific performances. Two weeks ago, when the reserves for this weekend’s event were announced, both men were angry over being left the final All-Star rosters. And on Tuesday, they both performed as if they were among the best players in the Eastern Conference.

LaVine had a game-high 41 points as he almost pulled off another comeback for the Bulls.

The first time these two teams met, the Wizards blew an 18-point lead in the lead in the fourth quarter. A month later, Washington led at halftime, but couldn’t hold on in a 115-106 defeat.

But circumstances have changed since then. The Wizards have leapt the Bulls in the standings, entering Tuesday’s matchup a half-game ahead of them and 3½ games back of the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic. Like Washington, the Bulls have suffered a heavy amount of injuries this season — including to core players like Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter and former Wizards wing Otto Porter.

In the third meeting, the Wizards had no problem jumping out to a sizable lead. Rui Hachimura, who did not play in the first two meetings, was part of the Wizards’ offensive onslaught as Chicago did little to protect the paint and the 3-point line.

The Wizards led by as many as 17 in the second quarter. But soon after that, Washington’s own defensive woes came back to haunt them.

Chicago cut into Washington’s lead with a barrage of 3-pointers, many of which went uncontested. The Bulls had gone just 1-of-7 from deep in the first. But by halftime — trailing 69-62 — the Bulls had hit 8 of their next 17 attempts.

The Wizards cracked down defensively in the third, and continued to score with ease. Center Ian Mahinmi feasted inside, scoring 12 of his 15 points in the quarter.

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