The Washington Wizards got back on track with a 122-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference playoff series at Capital One Arena on Friday.
This game started as a repeat of the first two contests, with the Raptors jumping out to a 27-18 lead with less than three minutes to play in the first quarter.
Washington stormed back with a 12-2 run to take a one-point lead after the opening frame and never looked back. The duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal led the offensive charge with 28 points each.
After losing the first two games of the series in Toronto, the Wizards were desperate for a victory to avoid digging themselves an 0-3 hole.
Washington struggled down the stretch this season, losing 16 of their past 23 games before Friday. This win gives the team momentum as the Wizards look to even the series at two games apiece going into Sunday's Game 4.
Getting back home turned out to be the perfect cure for what was ailing Beal. The Wizards' star shooter made more three-pointers on Friday (four) than he did in the first two games combined (three).
This was the kind of game that Washington fans have been waiting to see from Beal and Wall. The Raptors held Beal to just nine points in Game 2, marking just the seventh time he's failed to reach double-figures in scoring this season.
Wall looked like the best point guard in the Eastern Conference on Friday. The five-time All-Star had a double-double with 28 points and 14 assists, along with six rebounds.
Game 2 saw the Wizards in complete disarray, with Wall and Marcin Gortat appearing to be on different pages during a timeout while Beal had his head buried in his hands.
ESPN NBA analyst Paul Pierce, who played on the Wizards during the 2014-15 season, said during Wednesday's episode of The Jump that it was time for Wall and Beal to step up as leaders, via Scott Allen of the Washington Post:
"They're lacking that veteran presence, such as myself, to get in the huddle and say look guys, this is what we have to do. Now, I tried to breed them into that role. Now it's up to John and Bradley to step up. Everything they're doing is between their head. They're frustrated with one another, they're not playing well, and if they don't get it together, they can't be like this."
The Wizards were able to get things straightened out to put themselves right back in the series.
On the losing side, Toronto missed a golden opportunity to put pressure on the Wizards after taking an early lead in the first quarter.
After making a brief comeback to take a 36-34 lead in the first three minutes of the second quarter, the Raptors never led again. They played a solid offensive game, shooting 45.1 percent overall. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 42 points and 12 assists.
Actor Stephen Amell noted he may have been the one responsible for the Raptors' downfall in this game:
Another possible explanation is that Washington overwhelmed the Raptors defense by shooting 55.3 percent overall on 47 made field goals, along with 29 assists.
Despite holding a 2-1 series lead, Toronto hasn't done much to contain Washington's offense. The Wizards have shot at least 47 percent in each of the three games against the Raptors.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said after his team's loss that they need to regroup after taking the Wizards' best punch:
The Raptors have faced plenty of adversity in the playoffs before. They fell behind 2-1 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round last year before winning the next three games. A win in Game 4 on Sunday will give them a chance to clinch the series back home.
The Wizards proved on Friday their talent gives them a chance to compete with the best team in the Eastern Conference. Head coach Scott Brooks' next test will be getting them to bring that level of play again in Game 4 as they try to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole.