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 — 8½ 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.