- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2018

In between Games 2 and 3, Bradley Beal and John Wall met with coach Scott Brooks — and the tone of the meeting was clear to the Wizards guards.

Get Beal the ball.

Through two games, the Toronto Raptors had effectively neutralized Beal, who said Brooks apologized during the meeting for not getting him more involved in the offense. Brooks disputed he gave an apology, saying he was just trying to hold everyone accountable, including himself.

But for the Wizards to have any shot at climbing out of an 0-2 hole, they needed to get Beal going by any means possible.

The message was heard.

Beal had 28 points, Wall added 28 more and the Wizards scored a 122-103 win Friday over the Raptors to make the series, 2-1. The win guarantees they will head back to Toronto at least one more time.

A stellar performance from Beal led to an all-around dynamic night from the Wizards’ offense. They shot 55.3 percent, pushing the pace up and down the Capital One Arena floor.

“We were down 2-0, if that’s not a wakeup call in itself, then we don’t deserve to be here,” Beal said. “Everybody was locked in from shootaround. The last couple of days, actually. … We came out tonight with an edge about ourselves.”

After floating the possibility of a lineup change following Game 2, Brooks stuck with his normal starters, adding he was confident in his group to turn things around. Brooks said he wanted to give his starters a shot at defending their home floor, given their prior success.

Last season, the Wizards finished 6-0 at home in the playoffs, despite a second-round exit to the Boston Celtics. As this season’s series shifted back to the District, the Wizards said they couldn’t assume they would automatically turn things around just because they were effective at home in 2017.

Instead, the Wizards preached needing a better start, along with overall aggressiveness.

The Wizards definitely accomplished the latter — to the point where there were multiple skirmishes and dust-ups throughout the night. In the first quarter, Raptors forward OG Anunoby and Wizards forward Markieff Morris received double technicals for exchanging shoves.

Then, shortly following halftime, Beal received a technical for swatting the ball out of Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas’ hands during a stoppage of play. That caused Serge Ibaka and Wall to jaw at each other, and they, too, received technicals.

“I just told him to get his hands out of people’s face,” Wall said. “He was just pointing in everybody’s face and I told him to get his hands off people’s face. He went into a little rage.”

Wizards forward Kelly Oubre said Morris set the tone for the physicality.

“I think OG didn’t really know the scouting report,” Oubre said. “Because he didn’t know that Kieff was one of those people you don’t mess with in this world. It is what it is. He’ll learn.”

The Wizards, though, never let the game spiral out of control. They stayed focused, routinely having success on the defensive end. They forced 19 turnovers, scoring 28 points off of them.

Washington did a much better job on Raptors star DeMar DeRozan, who had 23 points on 22 attempts. DeRozan went off for 37 on Tuesday.

The Raptors, meanwhile, didn’t jump out to a significant margin like they had the last two outings. Toronto led 19-12 with 4:22 out, but a 12-2 run turned the momentum. Beal hit a heat check 3-pointer seconds before the end the first, giving the Wizards a 30-29 lead to close the quarter.

The Wizards continued their success in the second, outscoring the Raptors by seven in the quarter. They carried a 69-61 lead at the half.

But it was defense that propelled the Wizards. Before the game, Brooks pointed out his team scored 119 points in Game 2 — an amount that would normally give them a win. The problem? The Raptors scored 130.

By the end of Friday night, the Raptors shot just 45.1 percent — their low of the series. They still hit 12 3-pointers, but the Wizards were able to keep pace by making 10 of their own. Toronto also finished 42.9 percent from deep.

Beal acknowledged this win reminded him of the Wizards’ from last season. The Wizards kept saying they had to get back to the brand of basketball that has made them successful in the past. That means Wall and Beal working together as two coexisting alphas, while the rest of the team adds the right amount of chippiness.

Game 3 was the closest they’ve looked to getting back to that edge, so far.

“It was great to see everybody just clicking,” Beal said.

When Wall checked out with 2:13 remaining, he walked toward the bench and lifted his arms, pumping up the crowd. Beal joined him.

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