TORONTO — Bradley Beal had no one to share the spotlight with Sunday night — and he looked right at home in his role as leading man. With all-star backcourt mate John Wall out with a sore left shoulder, the Wizards’ leading scorer continued his strong start to the season, fueling Washington to a much-needed 107-96 win.
The Wizards, losers of four of their previous five, never trailed, and Beal performed like an offensive powerhouse, scoring 38 points on 16-for-26 shooting and making 4 of 6 three-pointers.
“It’s always tough because he’s a great floor general,” Beal said about playing without Wall. “The biggest thing [was] I knew they would be keying on me, one way or another. As best as I could I had to get some shots and be as aggressive as possible.”
Otto Porter Jr. also delivered a strong game, hitting 8 of 13 overall and 3 of 4 from beyond the arc for 19 points. Marcin Gortat recorded a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr., whose corner three with 4:30 remaining in the game ended the Raptors’ rally, each scored 10 points.
Since the Wizards (5-4) returned from their four-game Western Conference trip, Beal has taken the driver’s seat by launching the most shot attempts and leading the Wizards in scoring with 40, 36 and now 38 points.
“He’s really good,” Coach Scott Brooks said, simply explaining the reason behind Beal’s scoring binge. “It’s not a fluke. He’s one of the best guards in the league. He just scores from so many places on the floor, so it’s just hard to double-team him. And we move him around in our offense so [opponents] don’t get a daily dose of the same thing. Our bigs set great screens for him, and his outside shot is flawless.”
Against the Raptors, Beal asserted himself early — scoring six times at the rim through the first half and making 9 of 11 shots for 22 points.
During the times when Washington needed stability, Beal provided a sense of calm. As Toronto cut the Wizards’ lead to seven late in the third quarter, Beal responded by drilling a corner three in transition, then hitting a jumper in the paint as part of an 8-0 run.
Beal’s fire was reflected in the effort by his team, and the Raptors helped Washington play as the aggressors.
Despite the absence of Wall, the Wizards had something the Raptors did not: rest. Toronto recently concluded a six-game, 14-day road trip through the Western Conference. The Raptors’ minds and legs needed to readjust, and ahead of the matchup Toronto Coach Dwane Casey justifiably had concerns.
“This is the toughest game,” Casey said. “The scariest game because the energy level and time changes.”
So while Toronto made sloppy mistakes, Washington took advantage.
On the team’s first possession, Morris secured an offensive rebound and allowed Beal to hit a three. Seconds later, Porter swiped a pass and flushed home his one-man fast break with a dunk. Later, Tomas Satoransky grabbed an offensive rebound in a crowd of Raptors, leading to a Mike Scott three-pointer that made it 18-6
With each hustle play, the Wizards’ lead swelled, peaking at 42-23 at the 7:27 mark of the second quarter.
Yet one hallmark of the Wizards’ early-season struggles has been their inability to hold leads, and Sunday was no different.
“Those big leads are sometimes not good for us,” Gortat said. “But at the end of the day, we need them to secure the win.”
Even without all-star point guard Kyle Lowry, who got ejected in the second quarter for arguing with a referee, Toronto vaulted back into the game and trailed 88-85 with 7:24 remaining in the game.
Beal came to the rescue, unwilling to allow the Wizards’ offense to bog down with him in isolation.
“I wanted as much as possible to make sure I was moving,” Beal said. “Being active and cutting. My first instinct is don’t panic and get off the ball as quick as I can.”
Though Beal met double-team defenses in the fourth quarter, he gracefully maneuvered around each obstacle — leaning back while sticking an eight-foot jumper over two Raptors, then swiftly transitioning from a DeMar DeRozan miss and pulling up for the quick three-pointer. Even a longtime teammate was in awe.
“Hands down he’s the best, probably go-to guy at the two spot in the league. I mean, he’s just a freak right now,” Gortat said. “Some shots that he’s making around the basket, attacking the rim, I’m having a great position because I know it’s going to be a rebound for me, but he’s just making them. With fouls, without fouls . . . he’s playing completely at a different level.
“He’s a mad man,” Gortat concluded.
Though Toronto pounded Washington in the paint for 56 points, Beal was too much for them to handle.
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