WASHINGTON — The Wizards have lost five of their last six games, including three of their last four at home, where they have been fairly good this year. Six of their next seven games are on the road, where they have struggled.
Wizards players, though, believe the team can generate some momentum soon largely because the return of star shooting guard Bradley Beal is imminent. Beal, 29, missed his fifth consecutive game due to left hamstring soreness on Monday, as the Wizards lost to the defending-champion Warriors, but is expected to be back soon after being cleared for full basketball activities last week.
“We don’t have Brad right now. I know they always say next man up, but that’s a bunch load of how we create and how we shape this team to be,” Monte Morris said. “That’s a 30-point player right there. When we can put him back into the lineup and the rotation, I feel like we’re going to take off.”
The Wizards have unfortunately had to play without Beal quite a bit this season. Monday was the 20th game he’s missed out of 44 total games for the Wizards.
When Beal has been healthy, he has produced at a high level. This season he is averaging 22.9 points and 5.2 assists per game while shooting a career-high 52.5% from the field.
The Wizards have gone 10-14 with Beal this season compared to 8-12 when he’s out. While the winning percentage is similar – 41.6% with him compared to 40% without – Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis explained Monday why Beal is the missing ingredient to their offense.
“I mean, getting Brad back is really going to help. Just having another guy that can get into the paint and generate threes, that’s something that we’ve been really missing is another guy that really get into the paint and help other guys get shots off,” Kuzma said.
The Wizards happened to shoot very well from three against the Warriors on Monday, knocking down 14 of their 35 attempts, good for 40%. The Warriors, though, were better at 18-for-44 (40.9%).
Porzingis, though, agreed with Kuzma about Beal’s impact on the offense.
“He’s the focal point for every game that the opposite team prepares for. He’s the focal point. That makes my life easier, honestly,” he said.
Porzingis noted how the Wizards have designed much of their offense around a two-man game between him and Beal. When Beal has the ball on the perimeter, Porzingis can flash through the paint to get the ball in his favored spots on the floor. The two can then forces defenses to make tough decisions when Beal cuts past him to the rim.
“His speed and athleticism, it just draws so much attention,” Porzingis said.
The Wizards have struggled to find ways to win without Beal and playing without him has been a common occurrence over the past two years. Last season, he was injured for 42 of their 82 games.
Also, as their record with him indicates, they haven’t exactly been a powerhouse when he’s on the floor, either. They have enjoyed some positive stretches, like three wins in four games from Dec. 20 to the 27th. But Beal coming back alone will not be the magic elixir.
The Wizards will hope Beal returns soon and is here to stay once he does. He returned from the same left hamstring injury on Jan. 3 in Milwaukee only to re-aggravate it.
The first step is getting Beal in the lineup. After that, the Wizards feel they will have a better chance to get on the right track.
“No stress. Sooner than later, we will figure it out. We will figure it out,” Porzingis said. “We don’t have our best player. We’re playing with what we have and we’re almost there. Maybe the record is not looking great, but I believe we will get there.”