Photo credit: AP

I don’t know exactly what Bradley Beal had been trying to do in the five consecutive games the Wizards played without John Wall prior to last night’s visit to the Blazers in Portland. The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner has it that he was trying to create shots for others in the absence of one of the game’s best playmakers, and I guess I’ll buy that. Or, well, no, I won’t, because it sucked!

Whatever he’d been trying to do, it wasn’t working. He shot 35-percent in those five games, on a measly 14 attempts a game, and the Wizards went a cumulative minus-44 with him on the court, culminating in a miserable dead-eyed 11-point showing in a 47-point blowout loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday night. Maybe that was rock bottom. In any event, last night Beal ditched all that passive unselfish crap—along with the dorky rec-specs he’d been wearing since catching a Robert Covington elbow with his eyesocket a week ago—hunted for his own shot like the most shameless of chuckers, and torched the Blazers for 51 points, the most they’ve allowed to a single opponent in their own building, ever.

Get a load of this shit!

This is the full Bradley Beal repertoire: those hesitation-based dribble-drives, the smooth finishes through contact around the basket, the audacious teardrop runners when he gets trapped between two levels of the defense, the pretty three-point stroke, and most especially the curling long-range two-pointers that he will never, ever, get around to turning into threes, no matter how loudly I yell at my television. Broadly, the shots he took last night are the same shots he takes when he’s making me want to pull my head off and throw it at him, only last night he took them with conviction and even a little bit of snarl, and he took thirty goddamn seven of them, like the actual by-God best player on a wounded team in need of a heroic performance. And whaddaya know, the Wizards pulled out a win they needed very badly, if only to avoid the psychic blow of falling to .500 in December. (They’re 13-11 now.)

Here’s my favorite one:

.GIF via NBA on YouTube

That’s a pretty neat microcosm of the past couple weeks, if you were looking for one. It begins with a doomed, misbegotten effort to be a point guard, with ax-handed golem Ian Mahinmi as the roll man, Kelly Oubre Jr. standing inertly in the near corner, non-shooter Tomáš Satoranský in the far corner, and Mike Scott positioned exactly where Mahinmi’s giant cube head will obscure him from view. Beal keeps his dribble alive as long as he can in search of a pocket pass, while three defenders close in and four teammates just kinda stare at him dully, before finally going Oh, fuck this, I’m a scorer and tossing in an absurd, lovely, leaning bank shot off the highest corner of the backboard.

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That’s right, Brad! Fuck this! Just do lots and lots of cool shots, man. It’ll be fine.