D.C. Council 53: Wizards 93 vs Raptors 103: Post-All-Star Slumber Against the ‘Better Team’ (According to Wittman)
Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council: setting the scene, recapping key points, providing the analysis, evaluating players, and catching anything that you may have missed from the Washington Wizards. Game No. 53: Wizards vs Raptors; contributors: Rashad Mobley and Adam Rubin from above section 104 at the Verizon Center.
Washington Wizards 93 vs Toronto Raptors 103
It turns out you cannot win an NBA game if you only show up for four out of 48 minutes. Washington’s lack of effort against Toronto would have been more disappointing if it didn’t happen so regularly. Much has been made of Washington’s almost .500 record this season—a triumph worthy of a hefty ticket price increase. But the reality is that the Wizards (25-28) are tied with the Brooklyn Nets for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Not exactly a monumental accomplishment.
The Wizards’ undoing against the Raptors was the ever-troublesome third quarter. The game started out innocently enough with both teams appearing to suffer from an All-Star weekend hangover. There was very little defense to be found. Both teams shot better than 55 percent in the first half, with Toronto nursing a 55-49 lead at the break.
The third quarter belonged to Kyle Lowry. Lowry was only 2-for-8 in the first half, and he was torched by John Wall (19 points, 9-for-12 FGs). But whereas Wall missed all seven of his second-half shots, Lowry was just getting started. He ran circles around Wizards’ defenders en route to 14 points (6-for-8 FGs), scored with a wide array of jumpers within eight feet of the rim and a couple 3-pointers for good measure to go along with three assists. When the smoke cleared, Toronto had built a 14-point lead on 68.4 percent third-quarter shooting.
—Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace)
You’re really going to make me do this? I choose John Wall. First, because he did this. Second, because he was the only player on the roster who came ready to play from the opening tip. Wall flashed by as if he were shot out of a cannon against Toronto with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the first quarter—and all of those shots were jumpers. He did not slow down in the second quarter (eight minutes, eight points, 4-for-6 FGs). As Kyle Weidie pointed out on Twitter, Wall kept the Wizards within striking distance at the break.
John Wall played great O, decent D & managed game well. Yet, #Wizards down 49-55 to #Raptors at half. Wall FGs: 9-12. The Others: 13-27.
Unfortunately, Wall’s second half did not go as well as his first. Wall missed all seven of his field goal attempts with an equal number of turnovers as assists (four). But, in fairness, Wall was the victim of several bad calls (if you thought Wall’s All-Star weekend breakout would earn him some newfound respect from the referees, you would be wrong). Wall was knocked around all night at the rim and was called for a bad offensive foul when Lowry slid under him on a drive. That call sent Randy Wittman over the edge and into the locker room after receiving back-to-back technical fouls.
—Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace)
In the immortal words of Gilbert Arenas: “Pick one.” Nene missed free throws down the stretch. Garrett Temple, during a time when the Wizards are allegedly in the market for someone to replace him (and Eric Maynor), went scoreless in just 10 minutes of play. Trevor Ariza, despite rebounding well (11) and picking up steals (4), shot just 2-for-8 from the field and was never a factor on the offensive end. But it is All-Star guard Bradley Beal who gets the LVP award for his underwhelming performance.
Beal was scoreless in the first quarter, had four points by halftime, and managed just six points over the remainder of the game on 2-for-10 shooting. He was not aggressive, he did not
complement Wall during his first-half scoring binge, and he did not pick up the slack when the Raptors shut down Wall in the second half. Beal also allowed both Kyle Lowry (understandable) and the slow-as-molasses Greivis Vasquez (totally unacceptable) to run roughshod over him on the defensive end of the floor. Beal said after the game that it is important to have amnesia after games like this, which is true, but as many of the Raptors players pointed out after the game, it is more important to start the second half of the season strong.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
Trevor Booker deserves a slight nod for shooting—5-for-6 with 10 points (mostly via isolation plays)—but his buckets had little impact on the game, and he was scoreless in the fourth quarter. Marcin Gortat, who has complained about his role in the Wizards’ offense (he’s been ineffective at times within it), was more active than usual in the paint. Six of his 11 rebounds were offensive, 12 of his 18 points were scored in the lane, he was the beneficiary of three of Wall’s seven assists, and he even managed to throw in four assists of his own. In isolation, Gortat’s numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, but considering this came against the physical Raptors frontcourt of Patrick Patterson, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, and Tyler Hansbrough, it was a pretty good effort.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
This Session Was … Deju Vu all over again.
As referenced in the Opening Statements segment prior to the game, the Wizards lost their Jan. 4 game to the Raptors by getting outplayed and outscored in the third quarter (36-16), while allowing Kyle Lowry to have carte blanche offensively. On Tuesday night, the Wizards allowed Lowry to score 14 of his 24 points in the third quarter, as he extended the Raptors lead from six to as many as 17 points. Wall, who was brilliant in the first half with 19 points of his own, could not answer Lowry’s challenge, and was held to just three second-half points. The Wizards allowed the Raptors to shoot 68 percent from the field during that third quarter, and when the Raptors big men stretched their defense out to the perimeter to nullify Wall’s quickness, no other Wizards perimeter player caught fire. Randy Wittman had no answers for the adjustments Dwane Casey made, and his inability to gain control of his team in that third quarter, when the game was still very winnable, was just as much the culprit as the players’ ineffectiveness.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
With 4:39 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Wizards down 16 points, Randy Wittman—along with many of the fans at the Verizon Center—had finally seen enough. Wittman was ejected after picking up two quick technical fouls for arguing the merits of an offensive foul on John Wall.
Don Newman jumped off the bench and looked very comfortable sliding into the interim head coach role. Newman immediately made a move that many observers felt the Wizards would utilize more often this season—he went small. Washington ran with Wall, Beal, Webster, Ariza, and Nene for the next two and a half minutes and cut the deficit to six before fading away in the final moments.
It was a small sample size but after the game Wall sounded like he would like to see more small ball. He was asked about the team’s late-game run after Wittman was ejected:
“I think what really changed the momentum for us is we went small. We went small and spaced the court. I think that may be a good thing to get to at certain times against certain teams… We went small and got opportunities to run our pick-and-roll and if they help we got a lot of shooters out there.”
J. Michael of CSN pushed Wall on why the Wizards have not gone small more often this year.
“That’s all coach decision. That’s not really mine. But I know we used to do that in the past and we’ve played pretty good at times and coach has his decisions and we feel comfortable with the decisions he’s making and the players out there just have to do their jobs.”
Wall was then asked if coming into the season he expected more small lineups.
“You definitely think about that, because… You don’t always want to look back to last season because this is a different team, a different year, but we had a lot of success with that at times and sometimes you feel like it might not work and sometimes those are the decisions you make.”
Certainly sounds like Randy Wittman might want to follow Don Newman’s lead and incorporate some smaller lineups into the rotation. I know Martell Webster would appreciate it.
—Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace)
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Stat of the Game.
That was Toronto’s field goal percentage.
After the game Randy Wittman uncharacteristically declined to blame Washington’s defense for the Raptors’ easy buckets.
“I don’t want to sit here and say we did not have an effort defensively. We had trouble guarding off the dribble tonight. We defended pretty much a lot of their sets and then it gets down to seven, eight seconds on the shot clock and they break you down off the dribble. That’s how they get 60 points in the paint. It wasn’t like they were throwing it down on the box to a big and he was scoring. It was a lot of dribble drive. We had a lot of trouble with it. We couldn’t keep the ball in front of us. That broke our defense down.”
Perhaps Wittman was a bit subdued after watching the final five minutes of the game from the locker room. So I’ll say what he did not. Washington’s defense—save for the final four minutes of the game—was lackluster, at best. Sure, the Raptors hit some runners but there was very little resistance at the rim. It’s just not possible to play good defense and give up 60 points (30-for-44 FGs) in the paint.
—Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace)
From the Other Side.
The speech, the adjustments, the takeover.
When John Wall and Bradley Beal were in New Orleans, they took seemingly every interview opportunity that presented itself to mention how the key to success in the second half of the season would be their individual aggressiveness and the team’s collective consistency. At the first opportunity to put this plan in motion, Wall, Beal and the entire Wizards squad underperformed the way they usually do in their losses. They didn’t just lose to the Raptors, Wall lost his aggressiveness in the second half, Beal never had it, and as a whole, the Wizards were unable to play a sustained brand of high-quality basketball.
Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan was also in New Orleans—in fact, he admitted after the game that he spent time with Wall and Beal—but he saved his inspirational words and goals for his pregame speech. When asked by CSN Washington’s Ben Standig what the point of his pregame speech was, DeRozan had this to say:
“Just to tell everybody to be focused, each and every single game matters from here on out, especially if we want to do something special. We can’t take no nights off … just stressing that these next 30 games are going to be big and it starts tonight.”
Despite DeRozan’s inspirational words, the Raptors were slow to match the Wizards’ intensity in the first half, and they allowed Wall to score 19 first-half points. Dwane Casey and his staff decided play to their big men a bit higher, peppering in the combination of quick, physical bigs like Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough to throw off Wall. They successfully stymied Wall and the Wizards until Randy Wittman’s ejection with 4:51 left in the game inspired a Wizards comeback. But the key to the Raptors’ victory was Kyle Lowry and the aggressiveness he displayed in that third quarter—the very aggressiveness that Wall and Beal claimed was the key to success in the second half of the season.
Said Lowry after the game about his 14-point third quarter performance:
“I was trying to attack a little more. That first game out of the break is always tough, I didn’t want that to be an excuse for us to lose this game.”
Dwane Casey on how the Raptors won on the road:
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