The Washington Wizards did their part and took care of their home court, they beat the Toronto Raptors 106-98 to even the first round series at 2-2. The Wizards overcame some adversity in doing so, they played the last five minutes of the game without Bradley Beal and he had scored a team high 31 points. They also overcame an extremely subpar first half in which they scored just 40 points, Washington outscored Toronto 66-47 in the second half. John Wall had 27 points and 14 assists, DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 35 points, but it was a pretty inefficient night for him. The Wizards played big down the stretch and got key contributions from Kelly Oubre Jr on both ends of the floor. For the second game in a row, Washington won the turnover battle as Toronto had 18 to their 13. It wasn’t a pretty game from the Wizards, but a win is a win in the playoffs and that’s all that matters.
John Wall joined Magic Johnson as the only players to have at least 27 points, 14 assists, and six rebounds in two straight playoff games.#WizRaptors
— Zach Rosen (@ZacharySRosen) April 23, 2018
Having just fouled out, Bradley Beal didn’t leave the court. After his initial reaction to a controversial call, he let his emotions subside and rooted his team on from right outside the baseline. The Wizards and Raptors were tied with 3:50 left in a pivotal Game 4, the Raptors could go up 3-1 and the Wizards were looking to even things at two games a piece. With Beal gone, it was fair to wonder how Washington was going to get this done. They relied on their defense to see them through, they forced a turnover that led to Markieff Morris finishing a lob from Wall to give the Wizards a 96-94 lead. Morris followed up that basket with a great block on the opposite end, he rotated over on a DeRozan drive and blocked the shot. The Wizards pushed the ball upcourt and Oubre was fouled, he split the pair at the line and Washington held a three point lead. DeMar cut the deficit to one off a very tough drive in which he finished between two Washington defenders.
Then it was literally Wall’s way over the remaining two minutes. John scored on a drive in response to DeMar’s layup, Porter split a pair of free throws and then Wall delivered the dagger. He found space for himself on the right baseline and nailed a fadeaway as he was drifting out of bounds, pushing the Washington lead to six. The strong defense from the Wizards continued over the remainder of the game, they surrendered just two more points that came from the free throw line. It was a display of quality execution on both ends of the floor for Washington. They held DeRozan to 2-of-8 shooting in the fourth quarter and the Raptors to 34.8% from the floor.
“Yeah, you know you don’t want to be down 3-1. It sucks. I’ve been there before. It’s no fun. If it is you’ve got to deal with it. It’s much better going 2-2. We’ve got a challenge. We definitely have a challenge on our hands.” – Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks
Coach Casey touched on Washington being more physical in Game 3 and his team clearly received that message and put it to practice to start this game. Toronto did a great job of getting into Washington ball handlers, they also switched up their scheme in regards to how they defended John Wall. For stretches during the first half, Toronto disrupted the Wizards offense by putting bigs on Wall, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka had that role for stretches. Obviously Wall can beat any big off the bounce, but there was a wall ready to form or every other Raptors player had at least a foot inside the paint or just outside of it so they could help if needed. That shrunk the floor for Washington dramatically, taking away cross court passes and it allowed them to defend screen/rolls quite easily.
That’s not to say that the Wizards didn’t generate any quality looks, they just weren’t as frequent as the opportunities they had in Game 3. There wasn’t nearly enough movement off ball, but again a lot of that had to do with the Raptors defensive scheme. Wall had a few highlight worthy moments in the first half though, he had a vicious dunk over Valnciunas early in the first quarter and then got Poeltl in the second period. Washington didn’t help themselves either, far too often they got in their own way. The ball could have moved one more time before a shot or simply being stronger when trying to finish at the rim, they also fell short at the foul line, knocking down just seven of their 13 attempts. What kept the Wizards in the game was their defense, they did enough to keep the Raptors from pulling away.
Toronto led 51-40 at the half, their defense is what fueled them. They struggled form the field as they sho just 44%, but what helped was their ability to draw whistles. They took 18 trips to the charity stripe in the first half, knocking down 14 of those opportunities. DeRozan failed to hit a field goal in the first period, but he took 12 trips to the line. Lowry was very efficient, literally felt as if he was picking his spots which coincidentally happened to be whenever Washington made a run. He knocked down three of his four attempts from beyond the arc. The Raptors lost rookie OG Anunoby in the second quarter when Gorat fell on him after a blocked shot, it looked to be the youngsters leg.
“We just, overall, we’ve got to do a better job of executing through physicality and playing our game through perceived contact and whatever it is.” – Raptors Head Coach Dwayne Casey
Anunoby was on the floor to start the third period, but the Raptors had a different problem to deal with. Washington scored just 40 points in the first half, they found their rhythm in the third as they exploded for a 40 point quarter. Otto Porter Jr had failed to score in the first half, but he scored 10 in the period on 4-of-4 shooting. Beal got going as well, knocking down three triples on the way to a 12 point quarter. The Wizards shot a staggering 65.2% from the field and were scorching from deep, knocking five of their six attempts down. The Raptors tried to keep their lead, but hardly anyone outside of DeRozan scored. DeMar had 14 of the team’s 29 points. After slowing Washington down in the first half, Toronto couldn’t keep the Wizards out of transition and they paid dearly. Washington played at their pace in the period and that played a large part in how they were able to overcome that 11 point deficit to start the half. Mike Scott tied things at 80 before the buzzer when he buried an 18 foot runner as the clock expired.
Toronto started the final period with a 6-0 run to break the tie, Washington’s offense looked a bit sloppy. Wright extended the lead to eight for the Raptors before Beal scored inside to give Washington their first points of the quarter. Bradley followed up that basket with a turnover, but would soon redeem himself. He knocked down a three with 7:15 left in the game to cut the Washington deficit to four. Kyle Lowry turned it over and then Wall hit a pull-up jumpshot to cut it to two, the Wizards evened things at 90 nearly a minute later. Having been a foul trouble most of the game, Washington was rolling the dice with letting Beal stay on the floor. He picked up a few silly fouls over the course of the game, but with about five minutes left in the game, he fouled out. DeRozan missed a shot and chased down a rebound. Beal was in the vicinity, but tried to simply put his hands up and stand his ground. The officials ruled it a blocking violation, thus giving Bradley his sixth foul of the game. The score was tied at 92 at the time, the Wizards would have to play the rest of the game without him.