Bradley Beal’s preseason debut marred by ugly performance vs. Pistons

Bradley Beal's preseason debut marred by ugly performance vs. Pistons originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Wizards lost to the Detroit Pistons 97-86 on Thursday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five takeaways from what went down…

Ugly game

With only one preseason game remaining, and the regular season less than a week away, the Wizards aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders. They played undermanned against the Pistons on Thursday and the result was a sloppy mess with few bright spots on either end of the floor. Washington is now 0-2 in exhibition games.

The Wizards had 21 turnovers, including 15 in the first half alone. They shot just 38.9% from the field and 26.7% from three.

Thomas Bryant had a particularly rough night with five turnovers and a 2-for-7 shooting line. His frustrations boiled over in the second half after he was pushed to the ground by Blake Griffin. Bryant got up swinging and tried to get in Griffin’s face. It earned him a technical.

Oddly enough, Griffin just laughed at him the entire time.

It was that kind of night for the Wizards.

Beal’s debut

This was the first game for Wizards star Bradley Beal since March 10, as he sat out the restart bubble due to a shoulder injury. Not only did he look healthy, he came out sharp with 10 points in 16 minutes. The negatives were three turnovers and his 1-for-5 night from three.

This game felt a lot like last season for Beal. With no Russell Westbrook or Davis Bertans, it was just him and a bunch of young guys, and the Pistons acted accordingly. They swarmed him with double teams and played physical defense, especially around the rim. After a few no calls, Beal showed his anger towards the referees.

Beal clearly needs some help. He should be happy once Westbrook and Bertans get out there.

Bonga played well

Head coach Scott Brooks moved Isaac Bonga into the starting lineup as he continues to evaluate options at the three position. He responded well with a strong performance of 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals.

Bonga was impressive in two key areas. He made some outside shots, going 2-for-4 from three, which was encouraging because he needs to round out his game and provide some value on offense.

He was also disruptive on defense. Bonga was a standout on that end of the floor last year, but on Thursday appeared to be more in control. He was more precise with his movements, perhaps a result of experience and watching film. 

Bonga did a nice job anticipating passes and getting a hand in there for deflections. In the first half, he got a steal when guarding Griffin in the midrange and poked a ball out of bounds when defending Sekou Dombouya.

Those are the types of instinctual plays that could turn him from just another guy with length into a true asset defensively.

Avdija vs. Hayes

This game featured the No. 7 and No. 9 picks in the 2020 NBA Draft; Killian Hayes of the Pistons and Deni Avdija of the Wizards. Neither lit up the box score, but both had their moments.

Like in his debut, Avdija had another really nice play in transition. He stole a pass and then took it three-quarters of the court all the way to the rim where he finished in traffic over two defenders. Avdija also had a series of nifty passes, including one down the baseline to set up an easy layup for Bonga.

Avdija, though, fell back down to Earth from the pristine stat-line of his first game. He had just seven points on 3-for-8 shooting, including 0-for-4 from three.

Hayes is also an impressive passer himself and that was on display. He has a knack for breaking the defense down off the dribble and then finding an open man out of his line of sight. That suggests he knows the Pistons’ offense and his teammates’ spots on the floor. Hayes also showed off his stepback three which is very advanced for his age at only 19 years old.

Hayes finished with nine points on 2-of-6 shooting.

Rui’s eye issue

In addition to Westbrook and Bertans, the Wizards were also without second-year forward Rui Hachimura, as he sat out due to irritation in his eye. Brooks keeps calling it minor, yet it has caused him to miss practice time and now a game.

Brooks also said Hachimura saw an eye doctor earlier in the day to get it checked out. We don’t know much about the situation, like how he irritated his eye. But what we do know is the Wizards have six days until the regular season begins to figure it out.

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