As Washington dismantled the Toronto Raptors in their first-round play-off series, the Wizards’ wizened forward Paul Pierce observed that the post-season is “where you see the stars become superstars”.
He added: “That’s what you saw in this series from John and Bradley.”
Pierce was referring to John Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington’s 24-year-old point guard and 21-year-old shooting guard.
Wall is one of the NBA’s fastest guards, an instinctual and clever playmaker who was ranked second in the league this season with 10 assists per game.
Beal is an instinctive scorer whose confidence seemed to blossom against Toronto – after taking 13.5 shots per game and 2.6 free throw attempts in the regular season, he took 17.8 and 6.3 per game against the Raptors, scoring 20.8 points per game.
Each man struggled with his shot, but they were in part bailed out by the three-point shooting of Otto Porter, Drew Gooden, Ramon Sessions and Pierce.
The test for these young players is whether they can assert themselves in the play-offs and then keep up or improve their production.
The four games the Wizards needed to oust Toronto are not enough evidence. But Pierce seems to think they can take over, and he has been around long enough to have a good idea. Their second-round opponents, the Atlanta Hawks, looked vulnerable against Brooklyn in Round 1.
The Wizards looked fresh and energetic, and Wall and Beal may be the horses to carry the Wizards in Round 2.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE