DC Council Round 1, Game 3: Wizards vs. Raptors — The Odd Couple Has Arrived | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

DC Council Round 1, Game 3: Wizards vs. Raptors — The Odd Couple Has Arrived

Updated: April 25, 2015

Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council:
Grading Wizards players from Game 3 of the Wizards vs. Raptors series
Contributor: Rashad Mobley from the Verizon Center.

In the 2014 playoffs, the Washington Wizards stole two games on the Chicago Bulls’ home floor, then returned home to the Verizon Center and dropped Game 3—also known as the game when Nene lost (and butted) his head. The Wizards went on to win that series 4-1, but in the next series against the Indiana Pacers, they went 0-3 at home and lost that series 4-2.

Paul Pierce watched both of those series, saw the Wizards’ deficiencies, determined that he could have an effect on this young team and factored that into his decision to come to Washington. Here’s Pierce before the season began:

Otto Porter was also a spectator during the Wizards’ two-series 2014 playoff run, primarily from the the end of the bench. He sat the entire Bulls series, and played a total of six minutes during the Pacers series. Strangely, Randy Wittman tried to convince the media last night, after the Wizards’ win over the Raptors, that he would have felt comfortable playing Otto in meaningful minutes during last year’s playoff run, but the cold reality is that he didn’t, and Otto sat. Porter adjusted his attitude during the offseason, played aggressive all-around basketball in last year’s summer league, and, despite falling in and out of Coach Wittman’s rotation all season, managed to keep himself in passably good favor.

During the fourth quarter of last night’s victory, both Pierce and Porter positively influenced the outcome. Pierce hit shots masked as daggers when the Raptors made a late fourth-quarter run. Porter made some shots of his own, while peppering in some pesky, harassing defense on DeMar DeRozan, who scored 20 points in the first quarter but just 10 points in the second half (on 3-of-14 shooting), much of which was due to Porter’s strong defense.

Pierce reprised the usage of last season’s “That’s why they brought me here” (now “That’s why I’m here”) phrase after hitting his late fourth-quarter shot, but if Porter had a bit more chutzpah and an outgoing personality, he could have also laid claim to those words.

Wall and Beal dominated Game 2 and Gortat and Nene have guided the Wizards to victories collectively during their Wizards’ tenure. But last night, the odd couple of Mr. Clutch and Porter, the poor man’s Trevor Ariza, took a turn at saving the day.

And now, ’tis time to grade.


Toronto Raptors



Box Score

Washington Wizards


Nene Hilario, PF

23 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -3 +/-

Nene was kind of the odd man out in Wittman’s rotation last night. Gortat was on fire, Drew Gooden’s shot was falling, and the Pierce at the 4 Experiment continued to reap positive results—but this does not mean that he was not effective. He and Gortat played an effective two-man game in the first minute of the first quarter, which arguably helped Gortat find his rhythm (Wall’s passing didn’t hurt either). Nene (along with Gortat) continued to force Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas to take awkward shots in the post and commit fouls on both ends of the floor. Nene also quelled any emotional lift Tyler Hansbrough may have given the Raptors by playing overly physical.

Playoff basketball is about the contribution of stars and the intangibles of the supporting cast. Nene held up his end of the bargain.

Paul Pierce, SF

27 MIN | 5-9 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +1 +/-

Last night after Paul Pierce got dressed and right before the Wizards’ PR staff escorted him to the playoff podium, he walked slow and muttered to himself, “I’m too old for this sh*t, dog.”

Sorry Paul, we don’t believe you.

Pierce took just nine shots but made five of them, including four 3-pointers. Sixteen of his 18 points came in the second half as the Wizards vacillated in and out of being in control, and hit his last 3-pointer after the Raptors had cut the lead to three points with just 16.9 seconds left in the game.

It was clear he was locked in at the beginning of the second half. He hit a 3-pointer 40 seconds in and there wasn’t any wasted motion—in fact, he looked like he simply picked the ball off the rack during the 3-point contest. A couple minutes later, he did the exact same thing, but this time the shot was waved off due to a 3-second violation on Marcin Gortat. It could be argued that if Pierce shows even a inkling of being in “the zone” (he was last night), he should be granted with more than just nine shot attempts. But his performance in the clutch, and the Wizards victory, pretty much renders that argument moot.

Pierce, postgame:

“I’m always ready. As I said all year long, we feed off of what John [Wall] and Bradley [Beal] do. Those guys do a good job at initiating the offense. John penetrating, getting the open looks. We did a good job of making the extra pass. I’m readily available for those type of shots. They trusted me tonight and I was able to deliver.”

Marcin Gortat, C

42 MIN | 11-15 FG | 2-5 FT | 13 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 3 TO | 24 PTS | +4 +/-

Football coaches frequently mention the importance of running the ball in the first quarter, because it sets a physical tone. It isn’t about the yards or the yards per carry, but it is a mission statement of sorts, which lets the other team know “We are here, and we’re coming straight at your throat.”

In the first quarter of last night’s game, Gortat was Jerome Bettis, and Wall, Nene and the rest of the starting five played the role of Ben Roethlisberger.

Gortat scored 10 points (on 5-of-6 shooting) in that opening quarter, and all six shots were within 10 feet of the basket. If it were not for DeMar DeRozan’s 20-point, I-am-the-2015-version-of-Sleepy-Floyd performance in the first quarter, the Wizards would have had a sizable lead thanks to Gortat’s aggressiveness. He found Beal and Porter for easy shots, and, on defense, he protected the paint by blocking the shots of both Lou Williams and DeRozan. He scored just seven points in the second half, but he earned his keep by grabbing eight rebounds and frustrating Valanciunas.

“I think it was big, I was excited I was able to help the team, my teammates found me in a lot of open spots,” Gortat said about his quick start. “I’m glad I was able to turn those into points.”

John Wall, PG

43 MIN | 5-15 FG | 9-10 FT | 5 REB | 15 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 19 PTS | +8 +/-

In his postgame presser, Coach Wittman told the media, “When we don’t have ball movement and player movement, we aren’t very good, but when we do, we see five, six guys in double-figures.”

Wall had 15 assists to six different players last night, and Pierce, Gortat, Beal, Porter, and Gooden all hit that double-figure mark. When Wall was at his best, he kept the slower Kyle Lowry on his heels, and he made a living in the Raptors paint, where he’d feed Gortat, or eat on his own via layups, not jumpers (1).

When the Wizards were struggling and stagnant, Wall would hold the ball for the 10-15 seconds of the shot clock, and then take a long jumper, which ignited the Raptors’ offense on the other end of the floor. Luckily for the Wizards, Wall would returned to his early game form in the fourth quarter, and got the ball to Pierce and Porter. He played a whopping 43 minutes which may haunt him tomorrow in Game 4, but being up 3-0 in the series surely offsets that fatigue.

Bradley Beal, SG

42 MIN | 4-12 FG | 5-7 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +1 +/-

When Beal made three 3-point shots in the first quarter, he looked poised to go toe-to-toe in the scoring department with DeMar DeRozan, which would have been perfectly fine if DeRozan was not scoring these points at Beal’s expense. Yes, DeRozan was hitting tough shots from tough angles, but Beal could not get a hand up quickly enough.

Also, as he’s wont to do from time to time, Beal pulled a disappearing act in the second half by taking just two shots. He also missed two free throws late in the fourth quarter which allowed the Raptors to pull within two points. Beal did have two key fourth-quarter blocks of Lou Williams and Kyle Lowry, after being switched off DeRozan.

A win is a win, and Beal was the reason the Wizards won Game 2, but he was a bit of a defensive liability in Game 3, lacking the consistent offense to offset it.

Drew Gooden, PF

18 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-3 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +2 +/-

With 8:33 left in the game, Drew Gooden passed up a 3-point shot (he had gone 3-for-5 from the 3-point line up to that point), drove hard into the lane, scored on a driving bank shot, and drew the foul. He turned and faced the crowd, let out a primal scream and flexed his muscles. When asked about it after the game, Gooden said, “Damn I did that? I must have been lost in the game.” Indeed he was.

Much like Patrick Patterson for the Raptors, Gooden continues to be an effective stretch-4 for the Wizards. He was most effective late in the first quarter, when it appeared as if the Raptors were going to take a double-digit lead going into the second quarter. He hit two open 3-pointers which kept the deficit under 10 points, and blocked one of Valanciunas’ shots.

Yes, Drew Gooden, you did do that and more.

Otto Porter Jr., SF

33 MIN | 4-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | +17 +/-

Twice during the postgame presser, Otto Porter was asked to account for his emotional but spirited play against the Raptors. He pumped his fist after a 3-pointer, he talked a little trash to DeRozan (2), who responded by pushing him, and Porter calmly hit big fourth-quarter shots as if his name were Paul Pierce.

Porter’s response? “Its playoff basketball, baby.”

Porter could have been the MVP of the last night’s game even if he had gone scoreless, simply based on his defense. DeRozan had 20 first-quarter points, but 11 for remainder of the game. The Raptors’ wing made tough shots early, but Otto’s length clearly bothered him in the second quarter, and even when the third quarter started and Bradley Beal was back on him, DeRozan’s rhythm was already thrown off.

On offense, Porter hit two crucial fourth quarter 3-point shots. The first came at the 4:40 mark when the Raptors tied the game on a 3-point shot of their own, by Terrence Ross. The second 3-point shot gave the Wizards a five-point cushion after Beal’s missed free throw and DeRozan’s two free throws (after a Pierce foul) had cut the lead to two points. Porter didn’t hesitate. He just casually stepped up, took the shots, pumped his fist a bit, then got back on defense.

After the game, Pierce told the media that Otto’s big game was probably a product of him being tired of Pierce telling him step up. When Porter was asked if that was indeed the case, he quipped, “Man, Paul don’t be saying nothing!”

Ramon Sessions, PG

11 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | +5 +/-

Sessions did not do anything particularly poorly last night, but he didn’t do anything of note either. He wasn’t scoring, he wasn’t pushing the pace, and he didn’t exactly inspire the second unit. He’ll be needed in Game 4, because Wall will most likely not play another 43-minute game.

Randy Wittman

Coach Wittman took a lot of justifiable flak for being inflexible at times during the regular season, but last night’s victory against the Raptors demonstrated that Playoff Randy and Regular Season Randy are polar opposites.

During the regular season, the second unit—mostly Porter, Sessions and Rasual Butler—were given a bit of leeway if they started slowly. Last night, the second unit of Porter, Gooden, Sessions, and Nene didn’t play particularly poorly early in the second quarter, but they weren’t playing well—especially Sessions who seemed a bit overwhelmed. Wittman took Sessions out halfway through the second quarter, keeping John Wall at point guard for the remainder of the game. Wall played 43 minutes, scored 19 points and had 15 assists. It was a bit of a gamble for Wittman, because if Wall plays tired, the pace and care the Wizards thrive on so much can be compromised. But the move worked out perfectly.

Wittman also opted to play Marcin Gortat for 10 of the 12 fourth-quarter minutes, while keeping Nene on the bench for all but 90 seconds. Gortat played center in both of Wittman’s small ball lineups, which featured either Pierce or Gooden at the stretch-4 position. Gortat didn’t score or rebound a great deal in the last quarter but he was an offensive threat given his quick start, and that freed up Beal, Wall, Pierce, and Porter. Regular Season Randy may have tried to re-insert Nene or even Seraphin, but he trusted Gortat.

Sadly, when TAI’s Kyle Weidie tried to ask Wittman what has changed with Gortat in the fourth quarter against Toronto (Gortat played zero fourth quarter minutes against the Raptors this season), he was brushed off. That was Regular Season Randy.

  1. As he did the entire first quarter, and then again when he replaced the ineffective Ramon Sessions halfway through the second
  2. Drew Gooden didn’t see that either and when the media told him Otto was talking trash he was highly skeptical, but it was indeed true.
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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.