The loss, just Washington’s third in seven games in January, featured a slower-than-slow start but morphed into a display of the type of sharp play that earned victories against Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The Wizards moved the ball crisply and made big plays when they counted most, starting in the fourth quarter.
But more than anything, Sunday’s game was yet another showcase for Bradley Beal.
The team’s lone active all-star played like one in front of an enthusiastic snow-day crowd of 16,919 and dropped a game-high 43 points on the Raptors, 24 of which came after the third quarter. His 6-for-12 shooting from behind the three-point arc — including 4-for-4 shooting in the fourth quarter alone — helped the Wizards set a franchise record with 19 made threes one game after they tied the record by making 18 against the Bucks.
Beal rounded out the second triple-double of his career with 10 rebounds and a game-high 15 assists. He jogged off the court with his head bowed Sunday afternoon, rushed to the locker room and left the facility to prepare for the team’s trip to London without speaking to reporters.
But Beal wasn’t trying to dodge the media or escape a bad loss — Washington’s players and Coach Scott Brooks alike expressed little regret after the game.
“It was a great game. Anytime you have two teams lay everything they have on the floor, you can walk away knowing that you did your best, and tonight was one of those games,” Brooks said. “. . . Disappointed that we didn’t get the win but still proud of our guys the way they battled. If we keep playing like this, we’re going to be in a lot of good games and in a good position to win these games in the end.”
It was Beal’s fourth-quarter breakthrough that finally lifted Washington out of the Raptors’ grasp. The Wizards (18-26) had missed their first five field goals, fell into a 23-point hole in the second quarter and trailed for nearly 48 minutes before Beal capped a 21-point performance in the final period of regulation with a 26-foot three-pointer to tie things at 124 with 21.5 seconds left and force overtime.
“Made big shot after big shot after big shot, and we needed every bit. . . . He competes,” Brooks said of Beal. “He puts us in the position to win, and that’s what your all-stars are supposed to do.
Beal’s spark ignited Washington’s offense, and the Wizards started executing smart, assertive passes while Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam momentarily went cold.
The Wizards had provided no answer for Leonard and Siakam for the first three quarters, but in the fourth Leonard shot just 3 for 7 from the field for seven points and Siakam didn’t attempt a field goal. In the meantime, Beal made 8 of 9 attempts and the team shot 72.7 percent from the field in the fourth quarter.
Clutch shooting continued into the first overtime, during which Washington connected on just 3 of 13 field goals but made the buckets count — Tomas Satoransky collected a huge offensive rebound with 72 seconds left in the first overtime to send a bounce pass to Otto Porter Jr. for a game-tying three. A driving layup from Beal with 6.8 seconds left sent the game into another extra period.
Leonard (41 points) and Siakam (24 points, 19 rebounds) had three points each in the second overtime, but it was Serge Ibaka’s three-pointer with 5.2 seconds left that sealed the victory for the NBA-leading Raptors (33-12).
Still, with Beal leading four starters and Porter, off the bench, in double figures, the Wizards saw plenty of positives to keep in mind as they turn their attention to their overseas trip for a game against New York on Thursday.
Porter had 27 points, including five three-pointers, Sunday. Trevor Ariza had 23 points and 10 assists. Thomas Bryant added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Jeff Green had 12 points. Satoransky shot just 2 for 13 for four points after notching his first career triple-double in the previous game, but he stood out nonetheless for facilitating strong ball movement down the stretch.
“We’re taking steps in the right direction,” Ariza said. “Obviously tonight is a tough one. We wanted to win this one. We had opportunities to win this one. But we’re getting better every day. We’re paying attention. We’re playing harder.”
The loss to Toronto begins an odd week for the Wizards, who must figure out how to sustain the momentum as they travel to London and back to play just one game in a seven-day stretch.
“I mean, we knew this stretch of games . . . it’s the best teams in basketball,” Brooks said. “You’ve got to step up and play together, and play hard for one another — it doesn’t guarantee a win, but it gives you a chance to compete for a win at the end of the games, and that’s what we did. We’ve got to take this type of effort and mentality on the road into our home game in London. But I think it’s a good feeling to have after a game knowing that we gave everything we have. You don’t have to worry about the wins and losses. It will all take care of itself.”