Bradley Beal is generally used to receiving extra attention by opposing defenses. But the Wizards star saw the Raptors pull out a defensive strategy on Thursday that he hasn’t seen much of since his high school days at Chaminade.
Operating a box-and-one defense, the Raptors closely keyed in on No. 3 every time he touched the ball, having one player shadow him the whole game. Add in some heavy double teams, and the picture starts to become clear as to just how difficult the job was for BB against the Raptors.
Fortunately for the Wiz (31-36), Brad was still able to find ways to the rim as a scorer, finishing with 28 points on 11-of-22 shooting. However, it was ability as a playmaker that gave Toronto fits. He recorded five assists on the night and the Wizards took down the Raptors, 131-129 in OT.
“It was tough, but I knew if I trusted my teammates to be able to make plays and knock down shots then everything else would open up for me, and it did down the stretch,” Brad said.
Brad got plenty of help from his teammates, including Russell Westbrook, who finished the game with 17 assists and his 180th career triple-double. That puts him just one back of Oscar Robertson for the most triple doubles in NBA history.
No. 3 still managed to score nine points in the first half despite the extra attention, but the Raptors looked sharp on the other end. Toronto wen into halftime with four players in double figures and held a 60-51 lead.
The Wizards were able to level the score late in the third quarter thanks to a very strong game from Raul Neto, who scored 11 of career-high 25 points in the third. He finished the night 7-of-11 shooting, giving Washington the scoring punch they desperately needed with Brad being so closely defended.
No. 3 took it from there as he managed to break out of Toronto’s aggressive defense to score all 10 of his fourth-quarter points in the final three minutes of regulation. His two free throws with eight seconds left brought the Wizards lead to three, though a game-tying three-pointer from Fred VanVleet with 1.3 seconds left extended the game into overtime.
No. 3 added two more buckets at the rim during the extra sessions, including one with 45 seconds left to push the lead to four.
After a free throw by Garrison Mathews made it a 131-129 game with three seconds left, and the Raptors had one last chance to win the game. But Pascal Siakam’s three only saw the backboard as the Wizards hung on to win another vital game in the clutch.
The Wizards don’t have too much time to celebrate with a game against the Indiana Pacers set for Saturday, May 8. The Pacers sit a half-game up on the Wizards for the ninth-seed in the Eastern Conference, though the Wizards own the tiebreaker after winning both of their matchups with the Pacers this season. The game will air on NBC Sports Washington at 7:00 p.m.