WASHINGTON (AP) — Bradley Beal heeded his coach’s plea to “do his job” by scoring 21 of his 28 points in the first half, his All-Star backcourt running mate John Wall delivered 28 points and 14 assists, and the Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 122-103 Friday night in an occasionally heated game to cut their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series deficit to 2-1.
After letting the Raptors grab the first 2-0 series lead in franchise history, the Wizards came home and checked off every box coach Scott Brooks presented. They got Beal more involved after he made only three shots in Game 2; they actually led after the first quarter, 30-29; they played with enough defensive focus to get produce 19 turnovers by Toronto, leading to 28 points for Washington.
Add it all up, and it was a rare recent victory for Washington, which had lost seven of eight games dating to the regular season.
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 23 points on 10-for-22 shooting one game after scoring 37, and Kyle Lowry had 19 points and eight assists.
The start initially had the look of “Here we go again,” as Toronto moved ahead 27-18. The Raptors, after all, outscored Washington by an average of 11 points in the first period over Games 1 and 2. But this time, Washington responded with a 12-point run capped by Beal’s 3 with under a minute left.
Beal scored 12 in the quarter a day after he, Wall and Brooks met to discuss ways to get the All-Star shooting guard more involved in the offense. Entering Friday, Beal was averaging only 14 points in the playoffs, well below his 22.6 average during the regular season.
“I’d like to see him be more aggressive,” Brooks said before Friday’s game. “I can do my job, but he’s going to have to do his job.”
The game was filled with some tense moments.
All of about 2½ minutes in, Washington’s Markieff Morris and Toronto’s OG Anunoby needed to be separated after a near-fight. Morris hit the deck after getting fouled by Anunoby, then got up and shoved the Raptors rookie, before teammates and officials got between the two. Morris and Anunoby drew technicals.
Early in the third quarter, Lowry was called for a flagrant foul when he swiped a hand across Beal’s forehead as the Wizards guard went in for a breakaway layup.
Midway through that period, things nearly spiraled out of control. Beal grabbed at the ball when Jonas Valanciunas wouldn’t let it go after being called for an offensive foul. Several players got in each other’s faces, including Serge Ibaka and Wall, prompting the latter’s bodyguard to intercede. The episode ended without any punches thrown. Wall and Ibaka continued jawing at each other from a safe distance, drawing double techs, along with the “T” given to Beal.
As that scene unfolded on the court, spectators directed “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chants at the opponents from Canada, and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” blared over the arena’s speakers.
Amid it all, the hosts just kept pulling further and further away. Washington led by as many as 22 points, at 98-76, late in the third, which ended 101-82.
Raptors: G Fred VanVleet was out again because of a bruised right shoulder. The reserve missed Game 1, then was available for Game 2, but played only three minutes. “He looked good in practice and, for whatever reason, it was different in the game,” coach Dwane Casey said. “Couldn’t really catch the ball. Wasn’t effective shooting the ball or handling the ball. He’ll be day to day.”
Wizards: Brooks announced before the game he would stick to his usual starting lineup. After Game 2, he had mentioned the possibility of dropping C Marcin Gortat in favor of F Mike Scott. Asked Friday why it even came up, Brooks replied: “When you don’t have good starts, and you’re in front of a microphone within five minutes after a game, anything is possible in your thought process.” Gortat responded with his best showing of these playoffs, contributing 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
Game 4 is at Washington on Sunday night.
More AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball