Recap: Beal, Harrell lead Wizards to 98-83 win over Raptors in season opener
FINAL: WIZARDS 98 | RAPTORS 83
Wizards: Bradley Beal (23), Montrezl Harrell (22), Spencer Dinwiddie (13)
Raptors: Fred VanVleet (12), Scottie Barnes (12), OG Anunoby (11)
The Wizards opened the season with a 98-83 win over the Raptors on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena. Bradley Beal led all scorers with 23 points while Montrezl Harrell came off the bench to add another 22 points. Kyle Kuzma finished with 11 points and tied his career high with 15 rebounds.
Toronto’s 83 points are the fewest the Wizards have allowed in a game since 2017.
“It was a heck of a win for us,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said postgame. “It was good for our guys. They were happy to get the W. I just liked the way we played. We started strong, we talked about having momentum. We knew from the start they were going to play with energy and be physical – and we weathered the storm.”
Kyle Kuzma scored the first points of the Wizards’ season, knocking down a 3-pointer just over a minute into the game. That triple, however, was one of just five Washington hit all night. Despite shooting 1-8 (.125) from deep in the early going, the Wizards led for the majority of the first quarter thanks to six points each from Beal and Montrezl Harrell and stifling run of defense. Spencer Dinwiddie, playing in his first NBA game since suffering an ACL injury on December 17, 2020, scored five of the Wizards’ first 10 points, including a nifty and-one layup to give Washington an early lead. The Washington lead hit double-digits for the first time on an and-one layup from Daniel Gafford with seven minutes left in the first half – and grew to 20 as the Wizards went on a 24-7 run late in the second quarter. Beal knocked down his first 3-pointer of the night in the final minute of the first half, giving him a team-high 13 points at the break.
Despite a field goal drought that lasted over four minutes early in the third quarter, the Wizards managed to extend their 20-point halftime advantage to 69-44 on a Deni Avdija 3-pointer mid-way through the frame. Avdija finished the night with eight points and seven rebounds, shooting 3-3 (1.000) from the field. A dominant run of four free throws and two dunks from Harrell in a three-minute span put Washington up by 29 with less than two minutes left in the third quarter. Toronto closed strong, cutting the lead to 22 heading into the fourth. A 17-3 run early in the final quarter cut into Washington’s advantage, though Toronto was never able to get any closer than 10 points. A timely Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 3-pointer ended their momentum with 1:36 left in the game and sealed the Wizards’ win.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
Gafford, Harrell own the paint
Gafford, making his first regular season start since he was acquired by the Wizards at last season’s trade deadline, wasted no time making an impact on the game. After a highlight-reel block less than four minutes into the game, Gafford grabbed an offensive rebound and finished a put-back dunk on the following possession, giving the Wizards an lead. Mid-way through the first quarter, Montrezl Harrell checked in and dialed up the intensity even further. The 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year totaled 10 points and seven rebounds in the first half and added another 10 points in the third quarter alone. Harrell finished with 22 points on 9-11 (.818) shooting to go along with nine rebounds. Gafford totaled eight points, four blocks and was plus-11 in 22 minutes.
Wizards’ defense makes the difference
In their first game under Unseld Jr., whose reputation as a defensive strategist was a leading storyline at the time of his hire, the Wizards put on an outstanding performance on that end of the court. Washington held Toronto to 30-97 (.309) from the field, 7-34 (.206) from three and forced 19 Raptors’ turnovers. The Wizards defense was just as impactful on the interior, holding the Raptors to 20-52 (.384) in the paint.
Balanced effort from Beal
Despite scoring a team-high 23 points, Beal struggled from the field, going 7-18 (.389) overall and 1-6 (.167) from three. Beal, however, made up for his off shooting night in other ways, making some of his best plays of the night setting up his teammates. In the second quarter, the All-NBA guard pulled off a transition drop pass to give Harrell an easy dunk one possession before whipping a cross-court pass to set up a Kuzma 3-pointer. In addition to his four dimes, Beal brought it on the defensive end as well, totaling four steals and finished plus-23 in 34 minutes.