With two long threes and a follow-up drive to the basket, the Washington Wizards were quickly reminded of what they had missed in Bradley Beal for nine straight contests.
In his return to Washington’s starting five, Beal tallied 21 points and seven rebounds, but his final seven points edged the Wiz Kids past the New York Knicks in a gripping 102-101 win Monday night. The victory marked Washington’s first at Madison Square Garden since 2006.
The Wizards got off to a solid start. John Wall sank the bulk of his jumpers – even from three-point land, Washington’s defense held the Knicks’ lackluster offense at bay and Martell Webster set the pace for his 30-point night with back-to-back threes to end the first quarter.
Beal came to life in the second quarter, drilling a three and a close-up to put Washington up 33-25 with less than eight to go. With little effort, Webster dropped in two more threes before Wall lit up with seven points in the final 90 seconds of the half.
Coming out of the half, however, the Wizards lost their steam. The Knicks’ J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony took advantage of Washington’s turnovers, Wall lost control over the ball and Webster, alone, prevented the Knicks from running away with the lead, which they regained just before the start of the fourth quarter.
But, before bad progressed to much worse, Webster made two free baskets with 9:26 left to play before Beal’s jumper pulled the Wizards within one, down 82-81.
Marcin Gortat, who struggled for much of the night, made a timely layup to tie the game before Beal’s 20-footer pushed Washington in front.
Of all the unlikely suspects to build on the momentum, it was Jan Vesely who rose to the occasion with a driving dunk to make it 87-83 Wizards.
But, with just over two minutes remaining the Knicks crept ahead, 98-94, thanks to Iman Shumpert and Smith.
With two minutes remaining, Beal took on the Knicks almost single-handedly. He knocked in back-to-back threes to tie the game at 100 points apiece before Beno Udrih put New York in front with a free throw.
And, with a loss all but etched in the books, Beal drove through traffic to find the net for the game-winner with seconds to spare.