- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2021

Bradley Beal called the ending of Sunday’s 111-110 loss to the Boston Celtics some of the “goofiest” play he had ever seen in his life. The Washington Wizards guard might not have been exaggerating.

Up five points with less than a minute left, the Wizards suffered a comedy of errors down the stretch that included Beal stepping out of bounds with 12 seconds left, a blown rotation for Jayson Tatum’s game-winning layup and a contested jumper from Beal in the final seconds that clanked off the rim.

But in some ways, the caliber of the loss was only fitting since it extended one of the weirdest streaks in all of sports. With Beal’s 46 points against the Celtics, the Wizards have now lost 11 straight games in which Beal scores at least 40 — the longest streak in NBA history.
Beal’s collection of futile 40-point efforts, which extends back to 2019, has lasted longer than Walt Bellamy’s streak of nine games in 1961-62 and Wilt Chamberlain’s streak of eight in 1964-65.

Beal’s last win when he topped 40 goes all the way back to November 2019, when the Wizards cruised to a 137-116 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. That night, Beal scored 44.

The Wizards have become well aware of the streak’s existence.

“I tried to take it out of his hands when he got to 39,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks quipped.
He then struggled to come up with an answer to explain why Washington has such trouble winning in such circumstances.

“It’s a strange stat,” Brooks said. “He’s not, we’re not, doing anything different. He’s a great player. He’s going to have a lot of 40 point nights. He has a 50-point night. He has a 60-point night. This guy is a flat-out baller.”

Brooks may not have the answers, but there are some plausible explanations.

In those 11 contests, the Wizards have a point differential of minus-111 — meaning they’ve been outscored by nearly an average of almost 11 points per game when Beal has at least 40.

Dive deeper into those numbers, however, and you’ll realize that in many cases the Wizards are taking part in a track meet in which they fail to keep up.

During the Beal streak, the Wizards give up an average of 130.8 points per game. Among those games, Sunday’s loss was actually the least points they’ve surrendered  — and they still gave up 111. In other cases, the Wizards have allowed north of 130 points four times — more than 150 twice.

Beal doesn’t get much help from teammates on those nights. In Beal’s four 40-point-plus outings this season, a teammate has scored at least 20 points only twice. Russell Westbrook and Davis Bertans had 24 and 20 on Sunday, and Westbrook scored 20 when Beal poured in 60 against the 76ers on Jan. 6.

Beal is Washington’s best player, so it’s normal for the offense to run through him. This season, he’s averaging a career-high 24.1 attempts per game — nearly six more than Washington’s next player (Westbrook). But the Wizards work best when more players contribute.

Washington’s recent stretch provides an example. Beal scored “only” 31.6 points per game in February, but Washington went 9-7 on the month, in part, because of improved play from Westbrook and Bertans. Westbrook shot 43%, up from 39.8 in January. Bertans’ field goal percentage jumped from 36.3% to 41.9%. Washington is 7-2 over the last nine games.

Against the Celtics, Beal’s losing streak finally seemed poised to end. He surpassed the 40-point marker when he drained a go-ahead, pull-up 3-point jumper with 4:22 left — giving Washington a 98-96 lead. Washington’s lead expanded over the next few minutes to as many as eight (106-98) with 2:56 left.  

But the Wizards faded again. Not only is Beal’s streak at 11 games, but Washington is just 6-20 when Beal tops 40 during his career.

According to The Ringer, Beal is the only active player with a losing record when he reaches that mark among players with at least 20 such games.

“We’ve got to win that game, man,” Beal said Sunday. “We did everything we could have possibly done to put ourselves in position to win. We’ve gotta win. We’re 7-2 in our last nine, that’s great. We should be 8-1.”

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