The Washington Wizards started the season with two home games, they head out on a West Coast road trip this morning having dropped both of those games. Last night the Wizards dropped another winnable game, there were some similarities to Thursday’s loss and some issues from their past showed up as well. The Raptors were able to move to 3-0 to start the season with a 117-113 win over the Wizards despite Kawhi Leonard missing the game due to rest. Fred Van Vleet hit an unbelievable shot with 14.6 seconds left to give Toronto some breathing room after a Washington run. The Raptors were able to hold on for the victory, they had a very balanced attack and dominated the boards 52-37, including 14 offensive rebounds. Seven of which came in the fourth quarter, every one of them pivotal to their win. A very balanced attack as seven different players scored in double figures, led by Kyle Lowry’s 28 points (13 in the fourth quarter). Washington was led by their backcourt, Beal scored 32 points and Wall finished with 25. Brad became the Wizards franchise leader in three pointers made in the fourth quarter with 4:22 left, knocking down his 869th career triple to pass Gilbert Arenas.
Washington has struggled to keep their composure at times in the past and that was on full display in the fourth quarter when Beal was issued a Technical and Coach Scott Brooks was ejected with 7:04 left in the contest. At that point, the Wizards were down 101-89. The Wizards responded with a run sparked by a Beal to Wall lob in transition. For the next six minutes Washington continued to fight, but their inability to finish off a defensive possession with a rebound was really killing them. There was one possession where Kyle Lowry got several looks at a three because the Raptors continued to gather up his misses and get the ball back to him. It was extremely sad from an effort standpoint for Washington, this same thing played a big role in their loss to Miami.
After a Wall and-1, he got the ball and raced the length of the court to attack the basket. Danny Green had to step back as he had five fouls and Kyle Lowry attempted to draw another charge. He drew one on a Beal drive a couple possessions earlier. John was able to finish despite the contact, the converted three point play cut the deficit to just two. On the ensuing possession, the Wizards played some stellar defense. Beal got a piece of a three point attempt from Danny Green, Lowry recovered it and attempted a layup, but Porter was there and pinned it to the glass. The officials initially ruled it a goaltend, but after review they overturned the call, citing it was a clean block. There was a jump ball at center court, Ibaka tipped it to Lowry and Markieff Morris made a big defensive play by staying with the guard and blocking his layup attempt. That’s when Van Vleet happened, with the shot clock low Toronto inbounded the ball. It wasn’t a great pass as the ball looked to have gotten away from the inbounder, but Fred tracked it down and threw up a shot while Oubre tried to contest. The ball found the bottom of the net, it was a runner from 20 feet out.
It’s not the end of the world for Washington, it’s just two losses to start the year. It’s the way the losses occurred that could be seen as frustrating, there’s no reason to surrender 50 plus rebounds in back-to-back games. Especially when most of the damage is being done by opposing teams guards and wings. Ibaka and Siakam had nine and 10 boards, but that’s just 19 out of 52. Powell had five, OG had four, Green and Lowry had three a piece. Valanciunas had seven,Van Vleet had four and CJ Miles pulled down six, that’s rebounding as a team.
That’s the biggest issue for this team through two games, at some point someone has to take it personal and rebound the ball. Until then, this issue is going nowhere and games are going to continue to be difficult to win. The Wizards are dynamic in transition when they get a stop, hard to get a stop if you cant secure the defensive rebound.
Rebounding. The guards and wings have to do a better job owning their responsibility on the glass, especially when the Wizards go small. With the type of size and athleticism this team has on the perimeter, there’s no excuse to be such a poor rebounding group. Wall, Beal, and Porter combined for just eight rebounds on the night. Jeff Green and Satoransky combined for just three, that’s inexcusable considering their athletic gifts. It’s a an effort stat and Washington has to exert more energy to rebounding the basketball.
Turnovers. The Wizards only turned the ball over 11 times in this game, again just a reminder of how much not rebounding the ball is hurting them. They’ve been solid through the first two games in terms of not just giving the ball away, something that needs to continue as the go on this road trip.
Wall’s evolution. John is growing as a player and it feels like the team is adjusting to that as well. He’s a bit more assertive and far more comfortable attacking the basket with his improved physique, he’s getting downhill and dishing out contact versus just taking it. He’s able to absorb it much better and he’s mixing up his speeds some. It seems like the game’s slowing down a bit for him, but that also means his teammates have to adjust to him. Just sitting in a corner isn’t the best option any more, as he drives, move with him. A good example of this was on a two-on-two break with John and Brad, Wall put on the speed and put the pressure on the defense. That caused both defenders to go try and protect the basket and Beal flared out beyond the arc to knock down the triple. It’s a positive development, just one worth noting and watching going forward.
Rivers. Austin has been able to contribute in his role off the bench in both games, last night he had 12 points and 2 assists. He’s shown the ability to get others involved and go get his as needed. As the second unit continues to find their rhythm, he deserves to be acknowledged for finding his this early.