Wizards vs. Raptors: Bradley Beal scores 20 points to lead Washington to win
By Michael Lee,
TORONTO — Nene shook his head as he peeled off an ice pack from his right shoulder that was so sore that he struggled to lift it above his head after the Washington Wizards’ 90-84 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
Laughing to himself with befuddlement, Nene had no explanation for how he carried the Wizards in the fourth quarter despite a sharp pain that forced him to wince after every made basket or free throw. As Nene spoke, Bradley Beal was standing nearby at a refrigerator, loading up two plastic bags with about two dozen waters and Gatorades.
“Rookie duties,” Beal said before heading to the team bus.
At least Beal has his teammates around to keep him humble after the 19-year-old proved to be the Wizards’ one consistent presence through a sloppy game that wasn’t settled until the one-armed Nene provided the necessary cushion for the team’s third win in a row and seventh of nine overall.
The Wizards (18-37) claimed just their fifth road win of the season despite committing 20 turnovers and shooting just 35.4 percent from the field through the first three quarters.
“To win a game when the team didn’t play our best, you’re scrappy and sloppy, but we still about to put it together and get a win, on the road. It was big,” Emeka Okafor said. “It was a game, everybody was stuck in molasses and we just had to shake it off.”
Since getting John Wall in uniform, the Wizards have struggled to win both on the road and against teams with losing records. On Monday, they were in Toronto against a team with a losing record, but they had the appropriate respect for the Raptors after a humbling loss last week in their first game after the all-star break.
As the teams hooked up for the rematch, Wall was looking to recover from the worst shooting performance of his career and the Wizards wanted to neutralize DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay, a duo that has emerged as one of the league’s toughest perimeter combinations.
One out of three was enough, as the Wizards limited Gay and compensated for another poor shooting night by Wall and another inspired effort by DeRozan. Beal scored a team-high 20 points and Nene scored nine of his 11 points in the final period as Washington improved to 4-7 away from Verizon Center and 3-5 against teams with losing records with Wall this season.
“The game is slowing down for me, so I am making easier reads,” Beal said. “I was just letting the game come to me. I wasn’t forcing anything. You just have to stick with it when you have games like this.”
Beal has held or shared the team lead in scoring in all four games since the all-star break, posting at least 20 points in three of them.
“The kid is balling. His sense of urgency for the game is immaculate right now,” Martell Webster said after scoring 12 points. “He has a great rhythm and I hope he keeps riding.”
Nene missed his first six shots, and spent much of the second half on the bench with his right shoulder wrapped in ice. When he returned, he proved to be the difference as he scored nine straight points for the Wizards. He gave his team a 79-67 lead on a three-point play with 51 / 2 minutes left when he spun around Raptors forward Amir Johnson, absorbed contact and flipped the ball over his head, off the glass and in without looking at the rim.
“I think the angel put it in,” Nene said. “I have no clue how I scored tonight. I blocked with the left hand, stole the ball with the left hand, drive, push with the left hand. Just use one arm.”
Wall missed 8 of 11 shots from the field, not much of an improvement from the previous game against Toronto, when he missed 11 of 12. He sat for most of the fourth quarter, but returned to provide the finishing touch. After missing jumpers on consecutive possessions, including a questionable fadeaway with the 6-foot-9 Johnson defending, Wall nearly lost the ball and called a timeout. Deciding to lower his head and go to the rim, Wall blew past Kyle Lowry and made a lefty layup to put the Wizards up seven with 45.9 seconds remaining.
Raptors Coach Dwane Casey called a timeout and Wall flashed a huge grin as he headed to the bench. “The play before that, I shot a fadeaway and I saw Coach Witt’s face and he was about to go crazy when I shot over Amir Johnson,” said Wall, with a laugh, after adding a team-high seven assists. “I was just trying to get an easy basket.”
Wall’s backup, A.J. Price, contributed 12 points off the bench, providing some quality minutes.
Trevor Booker, Trevor Ariza and Okafor added eight apiece as the Wizards limited the Raptors to just 36.7 percent shooting from the field.
“I thought everybody really contributed for us,” Coach Randy Wittman said.
Toronto (23-34) has been a tough team to beat since acquiring Gay from Memphis on Jan. 30, winning seven of 11 games. Gay and DeRozan had 24 points apiece in the first meeting with Washington, but DeRozan was the only threat in the second game. He scored a game-high 25 points while Gay scored just seven points and shot “one for 11,” Webster said. “Not that I was reading the stat sheet or anything. He hurt us last game. our minds was set on making every possession for him tough.”
Lowry added 18 points for the Raptors.