TORONTO — Bradley Beal is making a strong case to earn top rookie honors in the Eastern Conference for the third straight month.
Beal scored 20 points, Nene had 11 points and nine rebounds, and the Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 90-84 on Monday night for their third straight victory.
The third overall pick in last June’s draft, and the East rookie of the month in December and January, Beal scored 20 or more for the 11th time.
“I feel a lot more comfortable and I have a lot more confidence as well,” Beal said. “It’s a learning process for me and it’s been like that the whole year. Now the game is slowing down for me, so I’m making easier reads. I’m starting to learn how teams are playing me and I’m just playing off of that.”
A.J. Price and Martell Webster each added 12 points for the Wizards, who won for just the fifth time in 27 road games this season. Washington’s road record is the worst in the NBA.
Beal missed five games between Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 with a sore right wrist but has topped 20 points in four of seven games since returning.
“He’s been playing great basketball over the last two weeks,” Webster said. “The kid is balling. He has a great rhythm, let’s hope he keeps riding it.”
John Wall had 10 points and seven assists, and Emeka Okafor had eight points and 13 rebounds as the Wizards won for the 14th time in 23 games.
Okafor said Beal has made a vital contribution to Washington’s offense during its recent surge.
“He’s been that spark,” Okafor said. “When things are a little bit slow or there’s a lull, he gets it picked up.”
DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points and Kyle Lowry had 18 for the Raptors, who had won six of their previous seven.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey called the loss “a stinker.”
“They whipped us, they outworked us,” Casey said. “Washington is an athletic team and they are playing hard. That should have gotten our attention.”
It was a rough night for Toronto’s Rudy Gay, who missed his first six field goal attempts before scoring on a driving dunk one minute into the fourth quarter. Gay shot 1 for 11 and finished with seven points, one more than his season low, set Dec 22 at Houston when he played for Memphis.
“To crowd him was the most important thing tonight,” Webster said. “Our minds were set on making every possession for him tough.”
A three-point play by DeRozan cut Toronto’s deficit to 79-72 with 3:38 left. Thirty seconds later, Gay was fouled with a chance to cut it to five but he missed the second free throw.
Nene answered with a dunk and, after a basket by Lowry, Trevor Ariza made a layup to make it 83-75 with 2:13 remaining.
Nine of Nene’s 11 points came in the final quarter.
“I thought he was huge for us in the fourth, scoring some big baskets and anchoring our defense,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
DeRozan made a pair of free throws with 1:57 left, but could only make one of two when he went back to the line with 1:04 remaining, leaving Toronto down 83-78.
Wall nearly lost the ball at midcourt on the next possession but kept the play alive by calling timeout. After the stoppage he streaked in to score a layup, giving the Wizards an 85-78 edge with 45 seconds left.
Back-to-back 3 pointers by Lowry cut it to 89-84 with 7 seconds to go, but Garrett Temple sealed it by making one of two at the line.
Okafor led all scorers with six points in the first, including a fast-break slam dunk in the final second that gave the Wizards a 17-16 lead.
Beal scored seven points in the second and Price had five to give the Wizards a 40-32 lead at the half.
Toronto’s 32 points at the break matched its season low. The Raptors also had 32 first-half points in an 88-82 loss to Memphis on Feb. 20.
Lowry’s 3-pointer with 4:14 left in the third tied it at 49-all, but Washington scored the next seven points and closed the quarter on a 14-5 run. Beal scored nine in the third as the Wizards took a 63-54 lead into the fourth
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