El Dorado News-Times

Suns' Beal returns home to score 43 on Washington


WASHINGTON (AP) — Bradley Beal received a nice video tribute while Phoenix's starters were being introduced in Washington.

Then he went out and offered a few more clips for any future highlight reels.

Beal was brilliant in his return to Washington on Sunday, scoring a season-high 43 points as the Suns rolled to a 140-112 victory over the Wizards. He might've scored 50 if he hadn't been pulled with 8:44 remaining because of his team's huge lead. He received a nice ovation from the crowd as he left.

“Tonight was awesome,” Beal said. “To be back in the city that has helped me grow as a man, drafted me on my 19th birthday . ... A lot of good memories man, and that tribute video was awesome.”

El Dorado native Daniel Gafford scored 15 points on 7-for-7 shooting for the Wizards.

Beal played 11 seasons with the Wizards before he was traded to Phoenix last offseason. Washington was heading in a different direction, as evidenced by the team's current record of 9-40. Now Beal has a chance to play on a star-studded team alongside Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

“It was a mutual decision back in the summer. It wasn't a spiteful or like a disgusting divorce,” Beal said. “It was a good separation. No hard feelings in it.”

After acknowledg­ing a standing ovation from the crowd during the pregame tribute and patting his chest, Beal put on a show, scoring 14 points in the first quarter and 12 more in the second. A two-handed breakaway dunk gave him 20 points. Another dunk in the third quarter gave him 35.

Wearing a black protective mask after breaking his nose last week, Beal finished the third quarter with a 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left — then shot a free throw when Washington was called for a technical foul. That gave him 41 points.

He played a bit at the start of the fourth, but the game wasn't really in doubt, and coach Frank Vogel eventually took Beal out after he'd played a game-high 31:01.

“I was not even going to leave him in to start the fourth, to be honest,” Vogel said. “So we left him in a few extra minutes, but you have to approach the game the right way.”

Beal shot 16 of 21 from the field and didn't seem to be forcing things too much, although he said his teammates clearly wanted him to shine.

“It wasn't like something we talked about in the locker room, but you can kind of sense the energy of the team, like that's what we were going to do,” Beal said. “And I'm not mad at it.”

When the Wizards played at Phoenix in December, Beal couldn't participat­e because of a sprained ankle. This was only his 26th game of the season, and the Suns want their three stars to gain experience playing together before the playoffs.

“It's been an adjustment for sure. You go from being very ball dominant, to now you share that dominance with two other guys — and three, including Nurk,” Beal said. “My role is totally different here than what it was. It's a process.”

Although the future is exciting for Beal in Phoenix, this weekend was a chance to return to his NBA roots and enjoy what Washington means to him.

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