WASHINGTON — Throughout a turbulent season for the injury-plagued Wizards, All-Star guard Bradley Beal keeps evolving.
Beal shook off a poor first half Monday night to score 21 of his 27 points in the second half of Washington's 121-115 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
"I had six points at half," said Beal, who complained of heavy legs Monday after playing 45 minutes on Saturday. "Last year or any year before this one, feeling the way I did today, I probably wouldn't have had a good second half. I think that's my growth, doing whatever it takes to win."
Beal added nine rebounds and nine assists for the 11th-place Wizards, who moved within 3 1/2 games of the eighth Eastern Conference playoff spot currently held by idle Miami.
Washington remains in contention largely because of Beal, who averages nearly double the points of any of his healthy teammates. The Wizards lost All-Star guard John Wall for the season in December, traded Otto Porter Jr. to Chicago at the deadline and have played mostly without injured centre Dwight Howard.
"You don't think of Brad as a developing player, but Brad has really developed this year," coach Scott Brooks said before the game. "His leadership. His ball-handling. His playmaking. Just his court awareness. The guy, I don't think he can improve this much, but he keeps getting better."
Jabari Parker added 18 points off the bench and Bobby Portis had 17 points and 13 rebounds as Washington began a five-game homestand that also includes games against ninth-place Orlando and 10th-place Charlotte.
"We need those two," Beal said.
De'Aaron Fox scored 23 points for the Kings, who started the day four games back of three teams tied for the last three Western Conference playoff spots.
Reserve Nemanja Bjelica added 15 points and 12 rebounds for Sacramento, which lost its sixth straight in Washington despite erasing a 14-point, first-quarter deficit and a 12-point edge the Wizards built in the third.
"We shot ourselves in the foot in the first quarter," Fox said.
Buddy Hield's transition layup gave Sacramento its first lead after halftime with 3:41 to play, capping a 6-0 spurt and making it 112-111.
Jeff Green and Beal each hit a pair of free throws to answer before Beal followed with a tough contested layup to stretch it to 118-112 with 51 seconds left.
The Kings hit just one of their last seven shots after Hield's layup.
"Playing from behind, you do expend a lot of energy," Kings coach Dave Joerger said. "That just ran us down at the end there. We fought so hard to get back in the game."
Kings: Erased a double-digit deficit by halftime for a second straight game. .... F Marvin Bagley III (left knee sprain) missed his fifth straight game and has yet to return to practice, Joerger said.
Wizards: Portis posted his 10th double-double of the season and sixth since arriving in Washington in the Porter trade. . Backup point guard Chasson Randle scored 12 points, his third-highest total this season.
DOING IT ALL
It was Beal's second consecutive game finishing near a triple-double after coming within one assist in an overtime loss Saturday at Minnesota. He also picked up four steals Monday, turning two into crucial fourth-quarter baskets, the first a thunderous dunk over Fox and the latter a baseline 3 that made it 111-106.
DWIGHT SIGHTING SOON?
Wizards coach Scott Brooks said it's still not clear if and when centre Dwight Howard (back surgery) will return this season. Howard remains limited to non-contact work in practice. The eight-time All-Star has played only nine games since signing for the Wizards last July.
"Obviously the season is winding down — there's four weeks left," Brooks said. "He's going to keep rehabbing and see how he feels the next couple weeks."
Kings: Continue their road trip Thursday in Boston.
Wizards: Host Orlando on Wednesday.
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