11/6 Game Preview: Wizards at Celtics
A lucrative contract all but assuredly awaits Bradley Beal this offseason, and he is doing his best early this season to show he's worth every penny.
The Washington Wizards guard will try to add to his promising start with a better performance against the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
The Wizards chose not to offer a contract extension to Beal by Monday's deadline but are expected to try to sign him this summer to a five-year deal - possibly for the maximum - while attempting to lure Kevin Durant back to his hometown.
If Washington should fail to get Durant, locking up Beal long-term could prove a gratifying consolation especially if the first four games this season are an indication of what's to come. He is averaging 25.3 points - 10 more than last season - and his shooting percentages of 47.5 from the field and 46.4 from 3-point range are well above his career marks.
He's also one of the league's top scorers in the fourth quarter, averaging 10.3 points while shooting 53.3 percent.
Beal had 14 points of his 26 points in the final period in a 118-113 comeback win in Milwaukee last Friday and delivered his biggest shot of the season Wednesday, a 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left in a 102-99 victory over San Antonio.
He finished with 25 points despite being guarded for much of the night by reigning Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard.
"I'm not going to let anybody just keep me from being me, no matter who it is," Beal said. "I'm not taking anything away from him or anybody else. It's just me being confident in myself."
Beal, though, now faces a team that was adept at containing him last season. He averaged 11.0 points while shooting 31.7 percent in three meetings with Boston, but Washington went 2-1.
The Celtics (1-3) are entering this season's first matchup having lost three in a row.
They have shot 38.3 percent in that skid but a 10-of-27 performance from 3-point range on Wednesday nearly lifted them past Indiana. Boston, however, missed its only two shot attempts in the final minute and lost 100-98.
Slow starts have played a role in the Celtics' struggles as their 19.0-point average in the first quarter is the league's worst. They're averaging at least 25.0 in all other periods and are among the NBA's best in fourth with 30.0 points per game.
"We've got to get tighter in our first halves," coach Brad Stevens said. "Our first halves have been poor."
Boston was held to 12 first-quarter points in these teams' last meeting and lost 101-88 in Washington on Dec. 27.
Kris Humphries had a combined 35 points in the Wizards' two wins in last season's series but is averaging 6.3 so far. Celtics leading scorer Isaiah Thomas (23.5 ppg) is averaging 20.8 points in his last five games against Washington despite being held below 38.0 percent shooting in each of the past three.
The statuses of Boston's Marcus Smart (toe) and Amir Johnson (ankle) are unclear.