Key Legislature: Wizards 116 vs Raptors 120 (OT): From Game Over to Overtime | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 116 vs Raptors 120 (OT): From Game Over to Overtime

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Updated: February 1, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 48 versus the Raptors in the District, via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Conor Dirks.

As Raptors 3-pointers rained down like leathery brimstone, and Wizards defenders watched in penitent awe, the sea parted itself, leaving a line of sand in its place as water amassed overhead. On one side was the humble shibboleth of a good season, a useful method built on lessons from past battles, where the ball moved like a true thought through the team, and shots were taken when they were available, but never forced. On the other side was a path to survival, though it required a blood contract with a new god: the 3-point shot. Adapt or die.

Down 65-50 at halftime to a Raptors team that was 7-for-8 on 3-pointers after the first quarter and 11-for-18 at intermission, the Wizards looked buried. Patrick Patterson, Toronto’s stretch 4 off the bench, was 3-for-4 in the first half, and all of his makes were uncontested, as Nene and Humphries repeatedly got sucked into the paint instead of staying home, or otherwise dared Patterson to beat them from deep.

Foul trouble for Toronto’s starting center, Jonas Valanciunas, was an unexpected boon for the Raptors, as the Wizards almost always prefer to play against traditional big men. Valanciunas was a team-low minus-17 in plus/minus differential before he fouled out. The next lowest Raptor was minus-3. Meanwhile, the Wizards struggled to defend the combination of Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson, both capable outside shooters. Lost in the shuffle was Marcin Gortat, whose action figure (replete with rippling leg muscles) had been handed out before the game to 19,000 fans. Gortat went without a basket, turned the ball over four times, and played only six minutes after halftime.

The second half seemed almost like a formality, and Randy Wittman’s refusal to remember previous blowouts in conversations with the media became a symbol of Washington’s outmoded game plan against a new breed of NBA elite. As noted by TAI’s Kyle Weidie, the Wizards are only 2-7 against the top eight teams in the NBA. Of those top eight teams, only one (Memphis, whom the Wizards have yet to play) is not in the top eight teams in 3-point attempts. Today, the long ball nearly defines success both in the regular season and in the playoffs. The Wizards are 27th in 3-point attempts, taking only 16 per game.

It’s unclear whether the halftime shift was conscious or a necessary product of the comeback, but the result was clear: the Wizards increased their 3-point shooting (12 second-half attempts) and ran the Raptors off the 3-point line far more effectively than they did early, when a hands-off approach appeared purposeful. Only two of Toronto’s eight second-half attempts were uncontested, and the Raptors went 0-for-8. The Wizards outscored the Raptors 59-44 to send the game into overtime.

Later, John Wall would describe a Paul Pierce 3-pointer with 25 seconds as providing “the window” for a victory. And that window was brief. Before the extra session hit, and Wall’s All-Star backcourt mate Kyle Lowry woke from his slumber to breathe jumpers and fouls drawn, the Wizards were provided with 0.3 seconds to win the game. Unfortunately, Pierce’s lob to Humphries on what was an otherwise well-designed play was high, and a single tear trickled down Andre Miller’s cheek.

The top of the Eastern Conference is a modified game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Washington (rock) beats Chicago (scissors) who beats Toronto (paper) who beats Washington (rock). Atlanta is the dynamite. And Cleveland is either a sloppy joe or an atom bomb, depending on the month. It will be the way of things until it is not, until Washington learns that their “other” gear against better teams must also be of a different make and model, a different kind of play that their roster is, fortunately, perfectly capable of replicating if one (or two) of Otto Porter, Martell Webster, or the once-indomitable Rasual Butler can become a reliable attacking option. And if Andre Miller can find his form again.

Bradley Beal’s play in the second half and overtime was particularly encouraging. The young guard found ways to get open behind the 3-point line, taking seven long shots during Washington’s comeback (his season average is four attempts per game). Down the stretch, Beal sought after, and found, his looks. In overtime, after the Wizards went cold, a fantastic extra pass by Otto Porter freed Beal on the left side for 3. Had it gone in, it would have brought Washington within two points with 1:08 remaining.

Wall, for his part, was brilliant again. Suffering from migraines that caused him to cover his eyes during pregame warmups, an audible cold, and with a “fat” ankle that he rolled most recently stepping on a cameraman in Phoenix, Wall attacked the basket when his team was falling behind, desperately willing points onto the scoreboard. The Wizards as a team turned the ball over 22 times leading to 31 Toronto points, but Wall only did so twice (compared to 12 assists). In overtime, however, Wall missed a crucial free throw that would have kept his team within one possession. The wear, tear, and fortune of a herculean return from the exile of defeat set in eventually, and too soon for a win. Washington only made two baskets in five minutes of overtime, and only secured one rebound. The rest? Toronto buckets, or trips to the free throw line.

Electing not to foul down four with 36 seconds remaining, the Wizards pressed while the Raptors ran down the clock. When Amir Johnson rebounded DeMar DeRozan’s miss with 11 seconds remaining, any benefit that decision would have provided was negated.

Adjustments are not as easy as waving a wand, and the Wizards have shown that their brand of basketball can win in the NBA. But if you credit Washington’s hard-nosed defense and midrange-heavy, open-look offense with the team’s ascent in the East, you also have to concede that the same game plan may not win a second-round playoff series against anyone but Chicago. Both Wall and Pierce mentioned that regardless of the final game against the Raptors (Feb. 11 in Toronto), the season series (3 games) had already been lost.

Adapt or die. Evolve or be left behind. To win in today’s NBA playoffs, you have to be able to beat today’s best. Yesteryear’s game may not be enough.


 

Vine’d

 

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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.