It’s been an electric year for Bradley Beal, who has been balling this year. He earned his first career All-Star starter spot this season, has helped the Wizards get into the play-ins, and dominated on offense whenever he’s been on the court.
He’s scored 1853 points in the 59 games that he’s played so far, good for a 31.4 PPG average, and is just behind the ageless Steph Curry. Curry is currently at a 31.8 PPG clip with 1969 points in 62 games played.
Now, in a normal regular season, it would make sense for Beal to go all out in his final game to try to finish with the best regular season scoring average. His Wizards would be in tenth place and clearly out of the playoffs, so chasing an individual accolade would be the only thing left to do. The Wizards wouldn’t even be blamed for feeding him the ball for the entire final game of the season.
Thanks to the play-in tournament, though, Beal would be forgiven for sitting out another game to keep fresh. The Wizards are, in my estimation, the biggest wildcard in the play-in tournament, and have just as good a shot as anyone at winning two-straight games in the tournament to get the final playoff berth.
Funnily enough, in this weird and wild NBA season, Beal’s decision to participate in their final game of the season probably relies on how the Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets play in their final two games. There’s still a very close battle for eighth place, and the Wizards are on the wrong side of it.
At 33-38, the Wizards can finish 34-38 at best if they beat the Hornets in their last game. Both the Pacers and Hornets are currently holding onto 33-37 records with two games to play.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Pacers take on the LA Lakers and Toronto Raptors in their last two games, and so are potentially looking at a 1-1 record to close out the season as the Lakers are in a desperate bid to stay out of the play-ins. If the Pacers finish 34-38, they’ll fall below the Wizards in the final standings thanks to a tiebreaker.
The Hornets, on the other hand, face the Knicks and Wizards next. The Knicks are also fighting for their final finish, which can be anywhere from fourth to sixth place, so they’ll be gunning hard to beat the Hornets. Assuming that the Knicks beat the Hornets, pushing them to 33-38, it sets up a final game between the Wizards and Hornets that’s a must-win for both sides.
A victory for the Wizards in that scenario means they get all the way from tenth to eighth place, which gives them two shots at making the play-ins. They’ll get a chance to first try to beat the Celtics, and then the winner of a Pacers-Hornets duel. Any team can lose a game, but I don’t think the Wizards would lose two in a row if Bradley Beal is on form.
The Pacers and Hornets both play on Sunday, May 16 at 1 AM Manila time. It’s safe to assume that the Wizards, and Beal, will be closely monitoring what happens in both of those games.
If the Pacers and Hornets both lose, that will put all three teams’ records at 33-38 and they’ll be in this order:
We’ll have to see how those games go. If the Hornets beat the Knicks then there’s no real advantage to Beal playing in the final game. He’s better off continuing to nurse his hamstring injury. We’ve seen how troublesome that kind of injury can be, and how effective an elite player can be if they rest it properly. Just ask James Harden.