WASHINGTON – All of about 2 1/2 minutes into the game, Washington forward Markieff Morris and Toronto’s OG Anunoby needed to be separated after a near-fight that drew in other players.
Early in the third quarter Friday night, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry was called for a flagrant foul when he swiped a hand across Bradley Beal’s forehead as the Wizards guard went in for a breakaway layup. Later in that period, things really came close to spiraling out of control, but John Wall’s bodyguard interceded when Washington’s All-Star jawed with Toronto’s Serge Ibaka.
As that scene unfolded on the court, spectators directed “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chants at the opponents from Canada, and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” blared over the arena’s speakers. Amid all the ruckus, Beal and Wall kept their heads and helped the Wizards pull further and further away for a 122-103 victory.
What was once a dull, lopsided series is suddenly quite interesting.
Beal heeded his coach’s plea to “do his job” by scoring 21 of his 28 points in the first half, Wall delivered 28 points and 14 assists, and the eighth-seeded Wizards cut their Eastern Conference first-round playoff deficit to 2-1.
“We’re not going out to try to box every game,” Beal said, before describing Morris as “a bully with a smile.”
Added Beal: “We came out tonight with an edge about ourselves.”
After letting the Raptors grab the first 2-0 series lead in franchise history, the Wizards came home and checked off every box coach Scott Brooks presented. They got Beal more involved after he made only three shots in Game 2; they actually led after the first quarter, 30-29; they produced 19 turnovers that led to 28 points.
“They came out and punched us,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “And we allowed them to.”
He meant that figuratively, of course, but the choice of words sure seemed apt.
The Raptors did appear to take the worse of the physical nature of the game.
DeMar DeRozan, who led Toronto with 23 points, wore a Band-Aid under his right eye afterward. Reserve Pascal Siakam held a bag of ice over a cut on his lip that required three stitches.
“Ain’t nobody fighting out here,” said Lowry, who had 19 points and eight assists. “I mean, it got physical, but ain’t nobody fighting. It’s a heated moment, but that’s the game of basketball.”
Each team boasts a pair of elite, All-Star guards. This time, Washington’s pair came out on top.
The start initially had the look of “Here we go again,” as Toronto moved ahead 27-18. The Raptors, after all, outscored Washington by an average of 11 points in the first period over Games 1 and 2. But this time, Washington responded with a 12-point run capped by Beal’s 3 with under a minute left.
Beal scored 12 in the quarter a day after he, Wall and Brooks met to discuss ways to get Beal more involved in the offense. Entering Friday, Beal was averaging only 14 points in the playoffs, well below his 22.6 average during the regular season.
“We need both our guys to step up,” Brooks said about Beal and Wall. “It was good tonight.”
Raptors: G Fred VanVleet was out again because of a bruised right shoulder. The reserve missed Game 1, then was available for Game 2, but played only three minutes. “He looked good in practice and, for whatever reason, it was different in the game,” Casey said. “Couldn’t really catch the ball. Wasn’t effective shooting the ball or handling the ball. He’ll be day to day.”
Wizards: Had lost seven of their past eight games. … Outshot the Raptors 55 percent to 45 percent on field-goal tries.
No mo’ mohawk
After considering dropping C Marcin Gortat from the starting lineup in favor of F Mike Scott, Brooks left things as-is. Sure worked out: Gortat responded with his best showing of these playoffs, contributing 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Asked to explain why Gortat fared so well, Brooks joked: “He got an age-appropriate haircut,” a reference to the center’s decision to shave his mohawk.
Game 4 is at Washington on Sunday night.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.