Beal scores 24 as Wizards beat Raptors 109-92

As the Washington Wizards pursue their stated goal of finishing

ninth in the Eastern Conference, seeing Bradley Beal back on the

court was a welcome sight.

Beal scored 24 points in his return from a five-game absence,

leading the Wizards to a 109-92 victory over the Toronto Raptors on

Sunday night.

Emeka Okafor had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and John Wall added

18 points and 10 assists for Washington. The Wizards, who came in

having lost two in a row on the road, won their seventh straight at

home and moved into a tie with Toronto for 10th place in the

Eastern Conference.

”They kept leaving me open and my teammates just kept finding

me,” said Beal, who was out with a sprained ankle. ”I was able to

knock down some shots. I stayed confident, and the ball ended up in

my hands a lot.”

Beal shot 8 for 14 from the field, including a career-high-tying

six 3-pointers – on nine attempts – in 30 minutes.

”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.”

The Wizards – 8 1/2 games behind eighth-place Milwaukee with

nine games remaining – are realistically out of the playoff

picture, but trail Philadelphia by three games for ninth.

”We’re playing for something that’s bigger than just nine games

left,” Martell Webster said. ” Fighting for that ninth spot

because for us, that’s fuel for next year.”

Jonas Valanciunas had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the

Raptors, losers of six of their last seven. Demar DeRozan and Kyle

Lowry added 15 apiece. Toronto leading scorer Rudy Gay scored 11

points – about seven below his average – while being limited to 26

minutes due to foul trouble.

”I thought we came out with a relaxed disposition and didn’t

come out ready to go. The guys didn’t look like they were ready to

move their feet defensively,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. ”We

had some frustration fouls which kind of set the tone for the

course of the game.”

Toronto, which has lost six of seven, cut a 20-point

third-quarter deficit to six twice in the fourth quarter before

Washington pulled away.

The Wizards shot 48.2 percent from the field (41 of 85) to 39.5

percent for Toronto (32 of 81).

Paced by Beal, the Wizards’ reserves outscored their Toronto

counterparts, 62-25.

Washington increased a 10-point halftime lead to 16 with an 8-2

run to open the second half. Toronto cut it to 70-62, but Beal hit

3-pointers on three of the Wizards’ next four possessions to make

it 79-64.

A little over a minute later, Beal hit another 3 and, after a

Toronto miss, Okafor’s dunk put Washington ahead 86-66 with 2:18

left in the quarter.

The Wizards scored 12 points from the foul line in the opening

12 minutes. Wall’s two free throws gave the Wizards a 27-25 lead at

the end of a first quarter that featured nine lead changes.

With Washington ahead by one midway through the second quarter,

Keven Seraphin scored six of his 11 first-half points in an 8-2

Washington spurt. A minute later, Wall fed Trevor Ariza for a

fast-break layup that made it 50-41 and Washington led by 10 at the

half.

Wall turned the ball over just one time.

”John’s line is spectacular for a point guard. ”I like to see

lines like that. He got the ball moving around. He had good pace to

the game,” Wittman said. ”I thought he did a great job on

controlling and dictating what we needed to do from an offensive

standpoint. I thought this was one of his better all-around

games.”

Wall added: ”I didn’t have to be super aggressive and score a

lot. I knew a lot of teams are keying on me the way I’ve been

playing lately so I’m just doing a great job of taking the shots I

have and if my teammates are open, doing a great job of finding

them.”

Gay was held to five points in the half and DeMar DeRozan to

four, while Valanciunas scored 16 for Toronto.

”We’ve just got to be focused,” DeRozan said. ”We’ve got to

understand we’ve only got so many games left. We’ve got to put our

mind to it and play hard every game. It’s as simple as that.”

NOTES: Wizards F Nene missed his fourth game with a sore right

knee. … The last time Washington won seven consecutive home games

was during the 2006-07 season, when they won 10 straight. … The

Wizards visit Toronto on Wednesday to wrap up the season-series.

Washington has won two of the first three meetings.