Rob Carr

Wizards vs. Raptors: Bradley Beal returns, shoots Wizards to 109-92 win

Bradley Beal hit six three-pointers in his first game back from an ankle injury to carry the Washington Wizards to a 109-92 win over the Toronto Raptors on Easter Sunday.

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So much more than a scorer

John Wall's evolution has involved so much more than the superb scoring skills on display the past week.

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Lowry, DeRozan on what's different about Wall

WASHINGTON -- Following the Wizards' 109-92 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, I asked a couple Raptors players the same thing I asked Dwane Casey before the game: what's different about John Wall?

Here are their answers:

DEMAR DEROZAN: "I played with John all summer. I definitely knew what he was capable of doing. The John Wall I've seen in the last 10 games is the John Wall I saw in the summer. His confidence is at an all-time high. The things he can do shooting the ball, everything. His confidence better be high right now. It's going well for him.

"He's been out so long with an injury, that can kill your spirit, kill your rhythm, especially when you worked so hard in the summer. To be out so long, you have to get readjusted to the NBA life."

"You've got to respect [the jumper]. Try to get the ball out of his hands, try to make someone else beat us. But he's so creative, he can find other guys. It's definitely difficult."

KYLE LOWRY: "The floor is a little bit more spaced for him. Having two bigs in Nene and Emeka [Okafor] definitely clogged the paint and closed up his driving lanes. It's unfortunate that Nene is out, but it gives John the opportunity to get into the paint a little more and use his speed."

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Lowry's answer is especially interesting. Do you think there's something to it? Is it worth playing smaller more often in the future, even if it means breaking up a Nene/Okafor duo that has been very good defensively this season?

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Beal leads Wizards to 109-92 win

The Wizards refused to say Bradley Beal was playing until right before the game. After torching the Raptors for 24 points, it's safe to say he's fine.

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Beal returns to the lineup

WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal has returned to the lineup after missing five games with an ankle injury, checking in for good midway through the first quarter. Beal was listed as a game-time decision at tipoff. He did not start the game.

Beal was warming up an hour before the game with assistant coach Ryan Saunders and looked pretty fluid during that time. Randy Wittman had characterized him and Nene as being game-time decisions. Nene is not playing.

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Your Wizards-Raptors game thread

Washington goes for its seventh straight victory in Verizon Center as the Raptors visit the nation's capital Sunday night. Here's your open thread.

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Casey: Wall must be defended differently now

WASHINGTON -- John Wall had one of the worst games of his career when the Toronto Raptors last came to town, going 1-12 with seven turnovers in an eight-point defeat in late February. Since then, he has significantly improved his game.

I asked Raptors coach Dwane Casey what has caused Wall's improvement. Here's his answer in full.

"His jump shot has really gotten my attention. When he's knocking that down, knocking threes down, he's almost impossible to guard because of his speed. That sets everything up. Now, if you come out on him for his jump shot that he's making, he goes by you. He's developed it. I understand he's been working with a shooting coach that's really helped his game. When he gets it to where it's automatic, that makes him tough to guard."

I followed up by asking if this recent surge means Wall must be defended differently than before. Casey said yes (emphasis mine).

"He's gotten everybody's attention. That 47 [points vs. Memphis] will do it for you. It shows you better come out and guard him and challenge his shot. Before, you could go under him automatically on pick and rolls. You can't do that now. You've got to read where he's on the floor. He's done a much better job of taking what the defense gives him. He's become a much, much smarter player since he's come back. He's gotten the experience of going against different defenses, but his improvement is unbelievable, especially with his shot and how it's setting everything else up," he said.

Casey also said he's been impressed by Wall's defense, which surprised me.

"His defense on the ball is unbelievable, because of his speed, strength, quickness and the length of his arms. He's cat-quick on the ball. I'm just as impressed with that as I am with his offensive output," he said.

Interesting stuff.

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