Here's your recap roundup for yesterday's Washington Wizards 109-92 win over the Toronto Raptors. As always, be sure to check out our StoryStream for additional coverage, as well as these postgame interviews with Randy Wittman, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Emeka Okafor and Jan Vesely, courtesy of Monumental Network.
With the victory, the Wizards (27-46) snapped a two-game losing streak and won seven consecutive games at home for the first time in six seasons. The Wizards haven't finished better than 13th in the conference since making their last playoff appearance in 2008 but they are now tied with the Raptors for 10th place in the Eastern Conference. They trail ninth-place Philadelphia by three games with nine games remaining.
"That's exactly what we're shooting for. We feel like we can get to that spot," said John Wall, who has led the Wizards to a 22-18 record since returning from a stress injury in his left knee. "We approach [the final nine games] like a playoff team, like if we was fighting for the seventh or eighth seed. We're fighting to get the ninth seed and finish on a winning record."
Bradley Beal matched a career-high with six 3-pointers and a game-high 24 points after missing 11 of the last 14 games with a sprained left ankle. His return was the perfect complement to John Wall's 18 points and 10 assists with a single turnover, the bookend to a superb March played mostly without his rookie teammate.
"It's very important, especially to me and especially to the team, because we want to end on a good note, make a run for the ninth seed," Beal said.
''We've seen it in his attitude,'' Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. ''He's been working, and he wants to get back. That's a good sign when you've only got 10 games left. I've been in it long enough where I've seen guys say they don't want to get back in it.''
Wall welcomed Beal's return as his stat line returned to normal. Wall, who scored a career-high 47 points last week and put up a career-high 28 shots in another game, didn't have to carry the offensive burden of a team that has been riddled with injuries. Trevor Ariza (flu), Webster (ab strain) and A.J. Price (groin) are playing again. Nene (right knee), however, missed his fourth game in a row.
"I didn't have to be super-aggressive and score a lot," said Wall, who finished with 18 points on 7-for-15 shooting, 10 assists, six rebounds and only had one turnover. "I knew a lot of teams would key in on me the way I've been playing lately. ... The main thing was having one turnover and 10 assists."
Wall finished with 18 points, 10 assists and merely a single turnover. He set the tone from the tap and played the measured point guard people want to see more consistently. Acknowledging that Wall did score a career-high 47 points a week ago, Wittman called the effort against Toronto one of Wall's "better all-around games."
To be honest, I didn't expect much from Beal, since he has sat out for a quite a long time. To my surprise, Beal looked just as good tonight, as he did prior to his ankle injury. Scoring 24 points in just 30 minutes off the bench, Beal shot 8/14 from the field, including 6 of 9 three pointers. Beal did a terrific job in getting open and running his routes, which allowed John Wall to find him multiple times on the perimeter. With Wall attacking the basket, defenses are forced to collapse, which leaves Beal wide open in the corner. It's amazing how much confidence Bradley Beal has gained just from playing with John Wall. Hopefully, we'll see the continuous growth of the Wall-Beal combo for years to come. In my opinion, this tandem has the potential to become the most powerful combination of guards in the league. It's amazing to watch how well Bradley Beal and John Wall work off each other.
Vesely ran behind a screen from Bradley Beal and raised his left hand, signaling for a pass. Price, about 10 feet behind the three-point line, tossed up the lob and Vesely rammed the ball with two hands. Given a rare opportunity to play significant minutes with Nene out with a sore right knee and Emeka Okafor in early foul trouble, Vesely scored nine points and grabbed a season-high eight rebounds in the Wizards' 109-92 win over the Raptors.
PG John Wall didn't have to carry the offense as the bench had 37 points in the first half. Reserves Beal, SF Trevor Ariza, C Kevin Seraphin, PG A.J. Price and PF Jan Vesely made significant contributions. Ariza and Vesely combined for 10 rebounds by halftime. Wall, who took a career-high 28 shots in the previous game to spark a struggling offense, was back to his old self by facilitating. And he did it without turning the ball over in the first two quarters. The Wizards only had nine for the game. The Raptors trimmed a 20-point lead to 92-86 in the fourth, but Price hit a runner in the lane. Wall re-entered at 6:37 and combined with Beal to close out the victory by pushing the lead back to 16. Wall finished 7-for-15 for 18 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.
The Wizards scored 60 points in the first half for the sixth time this year and have yet to lose when they do so. The second half was all Wizards, as they led by as many as 18 and eventually put away the Raptors by 17. Toronto made a push in the middle of the fourth quarter and got as close as six but the Wizards closed the game on a 15-4 run to put them away.
The Washington Wizards are (clearly) out of the playoff picture, but they have definitely been playing some solid basketball as of late, winning their last seven games at the Verizon Center. It's going to take a lot more success to erase the negative stigma that surrounds the franchise, but they are certainly on the right track.
A month and a half ago, Toronto hit the high water mark of its season at the Verizon Center, winning their fifth in a row. They had the playoffs roughly triangulated at that point. Six losses in their next seven games put that hope in the rearview.
Now Washington, by the diminished standards of both clubs, is the one finishing strong. If Wall has finally figured the NBA out, and if Beal can stay healthy, they could have something more than chicken here in short order.
The Raps have struggled all year with poor shooting from distance, and once again it cost them. The Wizards shot two fewer, but made two more, than our team. Beal, who's all of 19 years old, drained 6 of 9 from distance, often by outracing his defender to his preferred spot in the corner. The brilliant Wall didn't need to shoulder the scoring load (not that 18 points should be sneezed at), but was happy to dish some fine passes, and ended with 10 assists.