The Washington Wizards are no longer in the stage of where ‘moral’ victories are accepted, as the third best team in the Eastern conference, that’s not a surprise. The Wizards have struggled to beat the Toronto Raptors over the past couple of seasons, intensely close games, but the Raptors usually walk out the victors. Tonight would be no different as the Raptors defeat the Wizards 120-116, Washington lost a chance to move up and take second place in the conference. This game did provide an entertaining matchup between the starting back court for the Eastern Conference All-Star team in John Wall and Kyle Lowry. Wall’s team fell short, but the second time All-Star nearly missed out on a triple double with 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 12 assists. Lowry had 23 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists in the win.
Washington found themselves trailing the Raptors by 18 points in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had played a horrible game on the defensive end and didn’t take care of the ball (22 turnovers), playing a huge role in them being down by double digits. Instead of taking the easy way out and accepting a loss or a rout by Toronto, the Wizards started to dig themselves out of the hole on the defensive end.
One of the things Wall is still being knocked on from fans and pundits alike is his ability to take over games or lack there of. That hasn’t been the case this season as his point total in the fourth quarter has been more than eight several times. It definitely wasn’t the case tonight as he was the catalyst for the comeback, leading the charge on both the defensive and offensive ends of the floor to spark a 17-2 run to close the gap.
Toronto was able to keep a three point lead late in the fourth quarter due to their ability to hit extremely tough shots, Lou Williams specifically. Their interior defense was spectacular as even after Valanciunas fouled out, Patterson and Johnson did a great job challenging and often winning in their pursuit of contesting shots. Nene and Humphries had several shots altered and rejected by the Toronto duo.
With 34.4 seconds left in regulation, the Washington Wizards found themselves down by three points. They had just made a big stop on the previous possession, holding the Raptors to one shot. Wall drives into the paint and kicks the ball back out to a wide open Paul Pierce. The ‘Truth’ drills it and game is tied at 109 with 25.4 seconds left. Wall forces Williams into a floater from an extremely akward angle, ball is tipped up by the bigs, Pierce brings it in with 0.3 seconds left. The game would go to overtime.
Toronto led this game wire to wire, Washington didn’t get it’s first lead until 4:05 in the extra period when Pierce hit two of three from the charity stripe. Giving the Wizards a one point lead, the Raptors instantly respond with a 7-2 run. Spearheaded by Lowry, he put the Raptors back up by three on a leaner, followed it up by hitting a mid range jumper off a screen. Washington just couldn’t get anything to fall before a Lowry turnover led to a Wall basket in transition. Lowry showing D.C. why he was voted in as an All-Star starter, scoring six consecutive points to put the Raptors up by five.
Wall got to the basket and draws a foul with 38.2 left in the game, he splits the pair and the Wizards are down by four. Washington forces a tough jump shot by DeRozan, but Patterson taps out the rebound to Amir Johnson who is fouled instantly by Wall. Johnson goes to the line and splits the pair, Washington down five with 10.5 seconds left in the game. Toronto went on to win the game and keep hold of second place in the Eastern Conference.
Washington seemed to force up three pointers at ill advised moments, refusing to just step in and take a better shot or drive to the basket. Toronto did the opposite, outside of a few tough shots they hit, they did a great job of attacking the basket and using screens to create mismatches for their guards. Anytime Lou Williams or Lowry gets a big switched to them, it’s to their advantage every single time.
- Wall made this the 41st consecutive game in where he dished out at least six assists
- Wizards propensity to turn the ball over got them again. Raptors scored 31 off of turnovers
- Defense can’t start in the 4th quarter, have to play a full 48 minutes
- Settling for jump shots, Wall can’t be the only perimeter player to attack the basket
- Washington displayed mental toughness by willing their way back into the game and giving themselves a chance to win
Washington’s next game is Monday against the Hornets.
Are the Raptors significantly better than the Wizards or can Washington crack the code? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!