Beal helps lift Wizards over the Raptors in his return
Even though it was Saturday, Bradley Beal knew he would be playing for the Wizards.
The rookie shooting guard, who had missed 11 of 13 games with a left ankle sprain, came off the bench to score a game-high 24 points in Sunday’s 109-92 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
The victory gave the Wizards (27-46) their seventh consecutive home victory and their most wins in a season since 2007-08 when they last made the playoffs.
“It felt good to be able to knock down some shots. When I was hurt I never lost my mechanics, just shooting free throws and making sure I shoot it the same way,” Beal said of going 8-for-14 from the field, including 6 of 9 three-pointers. “Just carried over.”
Beal only had five points in the first half when he shot 1-for-3. He re-entered at 6:32 of the third quarter for Garrett Temple with the Wizards ahead 70-62 and heated up quickly. The Raptors went to a zone defense and Beal found the soft spots.
“They kept leaving me open,” Beal said. “My teammates just kept finding me.”
John Wall fed him for a three-pointer after 16 seconds elapsed. The next time down the floor, Martell Webster assisted Beal on a three. Two possessions later, it was another shot from long range that went in for Beal and then a fourth three-pointer at 3:04.
When the assault was over, the Wizards were ahead 84-66.
“He didn't skip a beat,” center Emeka Okafor said. “Just pretty much picked up where he left off. I know Brad’s game now. I know what he can do. Nothing surprises me.”
That’s saying something considering that Beal is 19. He went down March 3 in the fourth quarter of a home game and badly sprained his left ankle. He was fortunate it wasn't worse.
Sitting out six games, Beal watched the Wizards go 3-3. He returned March 16 vs. the Phoenix Suns to play 21 minutes and score 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting and grab six rebounds.
Beal re-injured the ankle two games later, going down without contact. It took five more games of being on the sideline before attempting to play again. The Wizards only have nine games left in the season.
“I've been in it long enough where I've seen guys say they don’t want to get back in it,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. “He went down in the practice gym and put in a really hard workout and came out of it without any pain. He said he’d like to try it. It’s important for him to play, but we won’t throw him out there and risk hurting him. As long as he’s got no pain, we’ll let him play. But I think it’s important as a 19-year-old to get in as many games as you can.”
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.”