Facing an 11-point halftime deficit and a potential 3-1 hole against the Eastern Conference’s top seed, the Washington Wizards battled back to defeat the Toronto Raptors 106-98 at home Sunday, evening the suddenly competitive first-round playoff series at two games apiece.
The Wizards erased the first-half deficit with a 40-point third quarter led by Bradley Beal’s 12 points, and All-Star backcourt mate John Wall closed things out after Beal picked up his sixth foul on a questionable call with five minutes left.
After the controversial blocking call on Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, the usually even-keeled Beal, who led the Wizards with 31 points, demonstratively protested the call before tossing a towel on the floor in frustration and storming past the Wizards bench toward the tunnel leading to the locker room.
“I was beyond emotional, beyond mad [and] frustrated,” Beal said. “I honestly thought [officials] were going to kick me out the game because I was so mad. I was happy they didn’t do that. I just gathered my emotions and gathered my thoughts and told my team were going to win, regardless.”
Wall took control down the stretch after Beal’s exit, scoring or assisting on 10 of the Wizards’ final 14 points as Washington finished the game on a 14-6 run.
“We’ve been in situations with me … [and] injuries and Brad having to be the guy and vice versa,” said Wall, who finished with 27 points and 14 assists and played the entire second half. “Guys feel confident and just took on the challenge in getting stops and just try and score the ball.”
Both teams’ All-Star backcourts had double-figure shot attempts while their teammates shot in the single digits.
DeRozan led all scorers with 35 points, but shot 10-for-29 from the floor, while Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry contributed 19 points and five assists.
The top-seeded Raptors’ strength all season has been its “Bench Mob” reserves unit, but the usually solid backups had five of the team’s 18 turnovers Sunday.
“We were playing frenetic down the stretch at some point we got to make sure we keep our composure and execute,” said Toronto head coach Dwane Casey. “We got to keep our composure and play through whatever contact there is, or perceived contact, and complete the play.”
The series returns to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday, with Game 6 on Friday in D.C.