John Wall, Bradley Beal finally click in same game as Wizards win Game 3 against Raptors

WASHINGTON -- On the morning of the Wizards' biggest game of the season, John Wall pulled out of the Capital One Arena parking lot in a sleek, silver convertible Ferrari.

With sunglasses on, top down and music blaring, Wall enjoyed a beautiful day in the nation's capital as he left the team's morning shootaround before Game 3.

If Wall, though, didn't bring the fight later that night to the Toronto Raptors, the Wizards' season would be on the brink of another disappointing postseason exit. Washingtonians have seen a Wizards superstar leave this arena garage before after yet another hyped era failed when a seething Michael Jordan sped off after being dismissed by Abe Pollin.

But unlike Jordan could then, Wall returned that night and kept the Wizards alive. With a re-energized Bradley Beal, Wall brought the Wizards back to life in this best-of-seven first-round series against Toronto. Down 0-2, Wall and Beal finally played the way they are capable of, reminding us just how good they are, how this All-Star backcourt should be playing, instead of giving further fodder for why their chemistry just doesn't seem right at times.

With an ultra-aggressive Beal busting out for 21 of his 28 points in the first half and Wall matching that with 28 points to go with 14 assists, Washington finally played like the team that many thought was no average eighth seed. The Wizards revved up their pace, outscoring Toronto 21-10 in fast-break points and moving the ball around as fast at times as Wall's Ferrari.

Before Game 2, Wall wondered just how good this Wizards team might have been had he not missed two months this season due to knee surgery. This was only his seventh game since returning in late March.

"Imagine me playing 40 other games that I did miss," Wall told ESPN last week. "We would have really had over 50 wins, I think, and a better [seed]."

Instead, the Wizards finished a disappointing 43-39. But really, even before Wall had surgery, the Wizards were just 26-22, which is the pace of a 44-win season over 82 games. There just seemed to be something off about these Wizards, one season after they extended the Boston Celtics to seven games in the second round and seemed poised to take the next step to the Eastern Conference finals this year.

Wall was determined to come back stronger than ever and lift Washington past that second-round barrier that has stymied this team for so long. But the Wizards treated the regular season like a championship-caliber team that was used to being able to turn it on in the postseason.

The Wizards promptly fell flat on their face in Canada, allowing the Raptors to do things they don't normally do, such as win a Game 1 of a series and take a 2-0 lead.

While Wall had moments when he looked like his old self as he works his way back to form, Beal looked like he was fading after averaging a career high in minutes (36.3) and playing in 82 games for the first time in his six-year career.

The sweet-shooting guard scored 19 points in Game 1 but followed that up with a nine-point game that left many wondering if Beal had shouldered too much while Wall was out earlier in the season. Particularly disturbing was how Beal was held to 1-for-7 shooting and two points in the fourth quarters of Games 1 and 2.

With his family and his mother in town and at Friday's game, Beal buried five of his first seven shots and had 12 points in the first quarter. He would score another nine points in the second quarter, as Wall scored 13 of his points in the same frame.

Perhaps more important than Washington's backcourt clicking together at the same time was the fact that the Wizards didn't just show fight, they took it to the Raptors.

First Markieff Morris got into a skirmish with OG Anunoby, prompting Wall to charge into a scrum with Toronto's All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan holding Wall back.

"We are not going out there trying to box every game," Beal said when asked if this team needs heated moments to bring out its attitude. "... We just want to be aggressive and be physical, and sometimes it escalates a little bit ... especially this one."

Beal was alluding to Wall. But it would be Beal who would later show an edgier side when he tried to grab the ball from Jonas Valanciunas after the Raptors center was called for an offensive foul. The 7-footer wouldn't give the ball up, holding it over the 6-foot-5 Beal like an adult holding candy away from a child. Beal kept slapping at the ball before the two got into it and had to be separated. Later, Serge Ibaka would try to charge at Wall, and the two would exchange words through the game.

The DC crowd, loving it, chanted "USA! USA!" while the game operations played Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA" and then Eazy-E's "Boyz-n-the-Hood."

"Now it's do or die," said Wizards reserve forward Kelly Oubre Jr., who brought much-needed energy off the bench. "Now we just have to bring that 'Death Row' mentality."

No, the Wizards didn't show up to the game wearing all black like they did against the Celtics before. But what they did do was revive that swagger, attitude and fight -- and just in time.

"We are down 2-0 -- if that is not a wake-up call in itself, we don't deserve to be here," Beal said of what changed. "Everybody was locked in the last couple of days ... we came out tonight with an edge."

The Wizards spent the days leading up to Game 3 trying to figure out what was wrong. Head coach Scott Brooks met with his two stars and challenged everyone in that room to be better and find ways to get Beal going. Beal said Brooks apologized for not getting him more opportunities. Brooks carefully clarified by saying it was his fault that Beal wasn't put in a situation to get more opportunities.

Before Game 3, Beal was asked how many shot attempts might he need to know that he would be in a rhythm and in the mix. Beal paused.

"Twenty," Beal said.

Beal ended up making 10 of 19 shots, as Washington led by as many as 22 to hand Toronto its first loss of the postseason. Wall made 12 of 23 attempts and did some damage out of the post by backing in Lowry at times and either finding Beal on the perimeter or a cutting big like Marcin Gortat for a basket when he didn't try to score himself.

Wall hit midrange jumpers, pushed the pace and controlled the Washington offense in the half-court, while Beal kept attacking.

"John and Brad, they are the heads of the snake," Lowry said. "And we got to cut them off."

After Washington fell behind 2-0 in the series, Wizards fans had to be wondering just how much venom remained in the Wall-Beal tandem, even though Wall missed half of this season and might not be back to 100 percent until next season.

Wall knows that if Washington doesn't get to the second round, there will be more whispers of what he and Beal can't do.

"It's the same stories for other players in this league when they haven't gotten past certain rounds or haven't won a playoff game, you ask them why haven't you, when are you going to start winning?" Wall said. "We want to just get to the Eastern Conference finals and get a chance to have an opportunity to be in the Finals."

That would mean that Wall and Beal have to be the best backcourt in this series, better than the other All-Star tandem of Lowry and DeRozan. On Friday in Washington, Wall and Beal were just that.

And if Wall gets his explosion back and Beal's engine is revving like Wall's Ferrari, Toronto will have its hands full.

"Incredible," Oubre said of Wall and Beal. "Simple as that. You see the results. When those guys are at the top of their game, they're unstoppable."