San Antonio Spurs: Bradley Beal provides first real test for Murray

Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Dejounte Murray will likely be tasked with guarding the Washington Wizards All-Star, Bradley Beal, as the San Antonio Spurs host the Wizards on Saturday night.

After helping to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a thrilling come from behind win on Wednesday, Dejounte Murray will once again be a key player for the Spurs. The Spurs will host the Washington Wizards on Saturday night and Murray will likely be the primary defender on Washington’s lone star.

On an injury-depleted team, Bradley Beal is the lone bright spot. After carrying the Wizards through last season after John Wall‘s injury, Beal recommitted to the Wizards by recently signing a two-year extension that could keep him in D.C. until 2023. And with Wall out for the foreseeable future recovering from an Achilles tear, the Wizards will once again call on Beal to lead them.

In an otherwise sloppy game on Wednesday, Murray was a star. He was all over the floor and effected every aspect of the game. His line of 18 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists was one of the most impressive of the night and firmly announced his candidacy for Most Improved Player of the year.

As important as Murray’s offensive contributions were, they will have to take a backseat as he should focus on locking Beal down in the upcoming matchup. Outside of Beal, the Wizards have very few players who they can consistently rely on to generate offense. Control Beal and a win should follow. It’s a lot easier said than done.

Beal is an offensive superstar, able to score from every level with ease. He’s gradually improved his playmaking but it took a leap forward last year when the injury to Wall put the ball in Beal’s hands more than ever before. He’s able to manipulate defenses with ease and find the open man.

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He’s also one of the most well-conditioned players in the league. He’s constantly moving, rarely taking a play off. Furthermore, he rarely even comes off the floor. He led the league in playing time last year with close to 37 minutes per game. There will be times when Gregg Popovich tasks another player with containing Beal but I suspect Murray will play significantly more than the 24 minutes he did on Wednesday night.

The key will be denying Beal the ball when possible, or at least making it difficult for him, and then forcing him to pass out of double teams. Washington doesn’t have many other dangerous offensive options. Former Spurs sniper Davis Bertans obviously poses a deep threat but other than that the Spurs should feel comfortable frequently doubling Beal, even if it does come at the cost of leaving another Wizard open.

Murray came out of the gates hot. He’s shown the kind of dynamic two-way player he can be already but has yet to face All-Star level competition. Guards of Bradley Beal’s caliber are the type of players Murray will have to lock up on a regular basis if the Spurs want to make the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference.

The list of opponents coming up gets even more daunting after the Wizards. Dejounte will have to face two MVP contenders in the next week with matchups against both Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry, as well as a duel with the similarly defensive-minded Patrick Beverly.

Next. Implications of LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract guarantee

Tip-off between the Spurs and Wizards will be tomorrow night at 7:30 PM from the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

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