The Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 122-103 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...
Wizards show some fight: The Washington Wizards who punch back, who play with an edge and impose their will on opponents physically and mentally, the team that initiates contact and trash-talks their foes into misery, that team finally showed up in the 2018 NBA Playoffs on Friday night and did so at the perfect time. With an 0-2 deficit and following a blowout loss three days before, the Wizards pulled themselves up off the mat and struck the Raptors with a message-sending blow that may have saved their season.
They blasted Toronto in a convincing win that looked a whole lot like the proverbial switch had been flipped. Their best players played to their capabilities on both ends of the floor and there was nothing the Raptors, as good as they are, could do about it. The net result is a 2-1 series and some newfound belief that an upset is possible.
It was just one game and anyone who has watched this team all season knows there are two very different versions of the Wizards. They aren't in the clear until they are actually in the clear.
But it would be hard to not to find encouragement in exactly how the Wizards won this game. They forced the Raptors into 19 turnovers and held their bench to 32 points, many of which came late when the game was decided. Washington shot 55.3 percent against one of the NBA's best defenses.
Bradley Beal (28 points) finally looked like himself. John Wall (28 points) was dominant and pumping up the crowd. Marcin Gortat (16 points), who almost lost his starting job, stepped up with several timely buckets. Mike Scott (12 points, 4-for-4 FG) played well for the third straight game.
Everything clicked and now we have ourselves a series.
Beal woke up: The fabled monster of the spring known as Playoff Beal showed up on Friday and announced his presence early. After the worst performance of his playoff career in Game 2, Beal broke out in a big way with a colossal first half of 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting.
Beal scored just nine points in Game 2, but surpassed that in about 10 minutes in Game 3. By halftime, he had more threes (four) than he did in his first two games this series combined.
Very quickly in the first quarter Beal looked different. His first bucket came on a turnaround fadeaway off the glass. From there his confidence grew as three-point shots fell one after another, whether he was guarded or not.
Beal finished with 28 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals. in between Games 2 and 3, head coach Scott Brooks held a meeting with Beal and John Wall, hoping to find Beal more opportunities. There may or may not have been an apology issued on Brooks' part.
Whatever the nature of the discussion, it seemed to work. Wall and Brooks told Beal to be more aggressive and that's exactly what happened. Beal looked much more like the guy who averaged 28.8 points against the Raptors during the regular season and was largely dominant vs. this very same team and without Wall to help out.
Wall needs some attention, too. He looked like the best player on the court for much of the game and accrued a ridiculous line of 28 points, 14 assists, six rebounds, four steals and a block, of the chasedown variety of course.
Oubre lit a spark: Beal did most of the heavy lifting early, but Kelly Oubre, Jr. also deserves credit for the first half surge by the Wizards. He was all sorts of active on both ends of the floor. In one sequence he blocked a shot, dunked it on the other end, took a charge and then dunked once more.
Each time, Oubre let out one of his signature screams to the crowd. He was making plays and infusing energy into the team. That's the stuff Brooks wants to see from Oubre. Many people, including Oubre, obsess over his three-point shooting but defense and hustle plays are really the name of the game for him.
Oubre ended up with 12 points, four rebounds and shot 5-for-9 from the field.
Playoff basketball: The tone may have been set early by Markieff Morris. After two games where the Wizards didn't show much fight, Morris literally almost got in one.
After hitting the deck on a collision with OG Anunoby, Morris got up and shoved both him and Serge Ibaka. Double technicals were assessed and one could argue Morris lost his cool on the play. The counter to that would be the Wizards needed to show some fire and Morris was sending a message. Given he wasn't kicked out of the game, it wasn't too costly.
Here is the whole sequence:
That's the playoff version of Morris we remember and it may have rubbed off on his teammates. In the third quarter, more animosity broke out after Jonas Valanciunas was called for an offensive foul on Marcin Gortat. Beal went after the ball and that started a big argument between the teams, highlighted by Wall and Ibaka needing to be separated by Wizards bodyguard Dave Best.
The arena was playing Tupac's 'Ambitionz az a Ridah' as it all went down, invoking memories of the 'Death Row D.C.' days of last season. Wall is, of course, Tupac according to the Morris-conceived metaphor.
The end result was technicals for Beal, Wall and Ibaka. That, and the realization that this series is now a lot more fun.
Up next: Game 4 is on Sunday at Capital One Arena. Tipoff will be at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington with pregame coverage starting at 5 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.
NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!