Raul Neto provides crucial offensive minutes in Wizards' win over Raptors

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Raul Neto provides crucial offensive minutes in Wizards' win over Raptors originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Raptors made one thing clear Thursday night: They were not going to let Bradley Beal beat them. 

They doubled and sometimes triple-teamed the Wizards’ top scorer at various points throughout a tight game and held him to 28 points in 44:44 on the floor. 

But with Beal blanketed, and Rui Hachimura out, the Wizards needed a role player to step up. And Raul Neto did. 

He scored 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting in just over 38-and-a-half minutes, the most he’s played this season. And it’s not unfair to credit him with giving the Wizards enough offense to push out a 131-129 win over the Raptors in Tampa.

“I’ve always said when you play with a guy like Brad, the whole defense is gonna be on him,” Neto said. “And we have Russ, too, that’s kind of the same thing. I always try to come in with the mentality of being aggressive and taking the shots when its open, because I think that’s what our team needs.” 

Neto finished second on the team in points, behind Beal, and only slightly eclipsed Robin Lopez, who had 24 points on the night. But for large stretches of the night, the Wizards’ offense went missing — only to have Neto put in crucial made baskets to keep them going. 

His energy was infectious, as most times, as his energy plays helped a tired and travel-weary Wizards team through a sluggish first half.

“That's what you have to do, that’s why you have a team,” coach Scott Brooks said. “Everybody stepped up, everybody chipped in. The thing I love about him is he has a pure heart. He just plays. He plays the right way, he plays hard, he plays for his teammates, he loves the guys he’s playing with and I love coaching him. He’s earned these extra minutes. We don’t even care if we have a small lineup out there, he plays with a big heart and that’s all I care about.”

The Wizards had a tough travel night, as they left Milwaukee last night and went straight for Tampa for two tip-offs in less than 24 hours. With a limited roster and sore legs, Neto’s minutes were a key factor in the win for Washington.

His 25 points were a season-high, as were his 3-pointers and free throws made. With Russell Westbrook having a rough night shooting (5-for-19), Neto’s step up into a major role gave the Wizards the help they needed.

There were points during the game, too, when Beal told his teammates simply not to pass him the ball anymore. The Raptors denied the ball to him as much as an opposing defense could. 

Once that happened, Neto stepped up and made the plays when the Wizards, who are now on the cusp of earning a spot in the play-in tournament, needed it.

“That’s what we are, we trust each other,” Beal said. “We depend on each other to make plays. We want our guys to shoot the ball, when Russ and I make plays for them we want guys to be aggressive. I even told guys tonight, don’t even look for me, just play ball.”