Bradley Beal's return lifts Wizards

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Rookie guard hits six 3s in a rout of the Raptors

Everything is better for the Wizards at home. They play better. They feel better. With only nine games left in the season, they're still trying to get better.

With a 109-92 victory over Toronto before 14,360 at Verizon Center, the Wizards (27-46) achieved their objective and saw shades of what their starting backcourt hopes to be next year.

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.

The win was the Wizards' seventh straight at home, their longest such streak since Dec. 2006-Jan. ?2007. They also pulled even with the Raptors (27-46) to tie for 10th place in the Eastern Conference, three games behind Philadelphia (30-43). Nearly the entire roster was available, aside from Nene, who missed his fourth straight game with a sore right knee.

Beal checked in with 4:37 remaining the first quarter. His 3-pointer over 6-foot-11 Jonas Valanciunas (18 points, 10 rebounds) broke a 33-33 tie early in the second, starting a stretch in which the Wizards outscored the Raptors by 10 over the final eight minutes of the half.

"I think we've seen it in his attitude," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of Beal. "He's been working, and he wants to get back. That's a good sign. ... I've been in it long enough where I've seen guys say they don't want to get back."

Wall's nifty feed inside to a surprisingly wide open Jan Vesely (nine points, season-high eight rebounds) on the final play before the break put Washington up 60-50. Beal then followed in the third quarter with three straight 3s after the Raptors had cut a double-digit lead to eight. He put the game away with his sixth 3-pointer, making the score 102-90 with 3:46 remaining in the final quarter. Emeka Okafor helped with 15 of his 19 points and six of his 10 rebounds in the second half.

"It felt good to be able to knock down some shots," Beal said. "But when I was hurt, I never lost my mechanics, just shooting free throws and making sure I shoot the same way."

Martell Webster (seven points, eight rebounds, three assists) was originally diagrammed to be the shooter coming out of a timeout a minute and a half later. Instead, the ball ended up with Beal, who pump faked and finished off the glass for his easiest points of the night.

"I looked at Coach and was like, 'He's shooting the ball. Put him in that position,'?" Webster said. "?'You're right about that.' So he switched it around. ... [Beal is] learning every game, and Coach is putting him in positions where he can excel."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Craig Stouffer

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner