Bradley Beal had scored more points in previous games this season, he had dished more assists and grabbed more rebounds. But if you take his game against the Mavs on Saturday night in its entirety, it was arguably his best performance of the season so far.
Beal had 26 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. He shot 10-for-14 overall, 1-for-1 from three and 5-for-6 from the line.
Beal scored efficiently, made plays for others and protected the ball. With three turnovers, he was one below his season average.
Despite the Wizards being off to a 13-7 start, Beal has yet to heat up offensively so far this season while having some uncharacteristic turnover and shooting numbers. But in what was a big road win for the Wizards, he was the total package.
"He looked like Brad Beal tonight," Kyle Kuzma said.
Beal did a good job adjusting his approach throughout the game depending on how the Mavs defended him. He came out swinging early on with 13 points in the first quarter and made his first eight shots. But as Dallas took measures to slow his scoring down, he created shots for others and helped open up the Wizards' offense.
Beal had three assists in the fourth quarter, the first on a pocket pass to a cutting Corey Kispert to trim the Mavs' lead to three with 9:14 left in the game. Soon after, he found Kuzma for a three on the wing.
Beal's final assist was to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with 29.2 seconds left. He drew a double-team and found Caldwell-Pope off a screen for a mid-range jumper. That bucket helped seal the victory.
"I trust my teammates and I trust them to make the right play," Beal said of his play-making.
Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. thought Beal showed growth against the Mavs in that regard.
"I talked to him afterwards and said it's a great sign of maturity... He wasn't concerned about his touches or his shots. A lot of guys, scorers of that nature, they get a little bit frustrated and they start to drift away from what their teammates are trying to do," Unseld Jr. said.
Beal's playmaking has been a trend so far this season, as he leads the Wizards with 5.9 assists per game. That's up from his 4.4 assists per game last year, which Beal says featured him operating with a different approach.
Last season, the Wizards' offense was controlled by point guard Russell Westbrook and they also didn't have as much scoring depth. Beal felt a different sense of responsibility.
"It's a total mental transition from last year. My mentality obviously was I had to score for us to be in games last year. Like, for us to be in a game, not win a game, but to actually be competitive in a game I had to score a lot of points. It's not like that this year," he said.
Beal said it's a fine line knowing when to look for his own shot and when to look for others. The same goes for taking what the defense gives him. Hesitating between both options is what he believes leads to many of his turnovers.
The key to making it work, he says, is staying aggressive.
Beal put it another way: "When I'm passive, I'm [explective]."
Beal was aggressive early and often against the Mavs and it helped the Wizards put together one of their best offensive games of the season so far. Their 120 points were the most they have scored in a month. They shot 57.7%, their second-best clip of the season.
Beal was the one who set the tone as the Wizards came away with a win against a Mavs team that began the day with the fourth-best record in the Western Conference.