Key Legislature: Wizards 106 vs Raptors 99 — 3-Point Butter on Pick-and-Roll Bread | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 106 vs Raptors 99 — 3-Point Butter on Pick-and-Roll Bread

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Updated: April 26, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards first round playoff contest No. 3 versus the Toronto Raptors in D.C.
via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

Basketball is so fast, but the game seemed to take forever. And it wasn’t just the late start and extended national television hoopla. I can’t define the mystique of playoff basketball and guess I’d just take some old coach or player’s word for it when they say that it “boils down” to defense. Water in pot, put it to heat, and whatever you put in gets cooked. Why is playoff basketball suddenly so different? It’s probably foremost called differently, consciously or subconsciously or both, by the referees. Touch fouls, for instance, are not as closely observed as in the regular season, and the players, over time, have been conditioned to this and adjust accordingly. Playing the same team, over and over, even with adjustments, can make a drastic difference. Having more talent, atop of better defense, really helps.

The Washington Wizards took a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. The “Key Legislature” or the game’s defining moment as the point of this post goes, was obvious. Toronto, down in mentality but hanging around, tied the game at 88 with 4:36 left in the fourth quarter on a well-contested Terrence Ross 3-pointer. On the other end, Patrick Patterson (Toronto’s 4 man guarding Otto Porter), doubled John Wall off what could be considered a ghost screen by Otto. The Raptors had been doubling Wall to get the ball out of his hands for most of the series—and why wouldn’t they? You make young Otto Porter, on a 3-point anemic team, beat you from wherever. So, as Porter rolled to the left wing, Wall slung it to his open teammate who did not hesitate one bit. It was the most confident 3-point attempt of Porter’s entire career, and he made it to give the Wizards a 91-88 lead.

The Wizards ran the same play next time down the court, except Toronto switched and Wall threw up a fading midrange shot, which missed. Wall didn’t shoot well in Game 3 (5-15) and is now shooting 36.6 percent from the field in 14 career playoff games; he’s only shot above 50 percent in three of those games. But, Wall must shoot to keep the defense honest, and he is a damn good point guard, anyway, so while some shots are forced (especially several shots in Game 1 in Toronto), he’s got to keep finding his confidence from range.

And so Porter hit another 3-pointer at the 2:37 mark of the fourth quarter to give his Wizard a 95-90 lead. This time Marcin Gortat set a screen for Wall and as his dribble penetration threatened, Patterson backed off Porter and into the lane just enough to allow for the second-most confident 3-point attempt of Otto’s life. You could even say that Bradley Beal was more open next to him in the left corner, but Porter only set his sights on the rim.

Enter Paul Pierce. A Wall pick-and-roll with Gortat yielded the ball to the big man in the paint, who, as he does so well (and sometimes he’s too willingly), swung the ball to Pierce on the opposite wing. Beal, on the other side of the floor, raised both arms to the sky while Pierce’s 3-point attempt was still in the air. Raptors fans and players alike probably instantly regretted anything to ever do with The Truth; Washington had a 98-90 lead with two minutes left.

Pierce again? Toronto fought back hard in the waning moments with pressure defense and paint attacks, and then Kyle Lowry hit a flailing 3-point shot with 40 seconds left to keep his team within 99-102. The Wizards had to score on their next possession, else Toronto would get a chance down three and overtime or worse would be the threat. The Wizards used up clock until Wall got the rock with nine seconds left on the shot clock in the corner near the half court line. Washington was almost wasting time, but Wall darted in the direction of the basket and when defenders collapsed, he kicked it to Pierce on the left wing at the 3-point line. As Pierce caught the ball, Lowry and Patterson ran at him. He threw up a pump fake and then the shot, landing on one foot as the shot went in, and as ESPN’s Mark Jones yelled, “What did you expect!?” while the Verizon Center went nuts. The Wizards led 105-99 with 16 seconds left—it was the game, the dagger—and soon after followed the oft-repeated phrase when referencing Pierce, “That why they brought him here.”

The future Hall-of-Famer who has gotten under the skin of an entire Canadian basketball fanbase and the young pup Otto Porter, who was so angst-filled in his NBA debut as a rookie last season that he travelled with the ball the first time he ever touched it, combined to hit four 3-pointers on four attempts to outscore the Raptors 18-11 over the game’s final four minutes and 30 seconds. Those were the only field goal makes for Washington during that span, and combined with two John Wall 3-point misses, all Wizards non-free throw attempts over the final stretch were 3-pointers. Go figure. Washington attempted 29 3s in Game 3 (one off their season high) and made 12 (also one off their season high).

“You saw him in the last three weeks of the season. He got extended minutes and I think his confidence has really grown. I think he is tired of me getting on him too,” said Pierce afterward. “I constantly stay in Otto’s ear, pushing him, trying to get him to be the best that he can be and he’s responding. He is starting to play with a little more fire and that’s all we’ve been wanting from Otto.” Porter even managed to bait DeMar DeRozan into a technical foul; after he blocked a DeRozan shot, Porter briefly but not for too long let DeRozan know about it. DeRozan then responded with a one-arm push, earning him the violation.

These 3-pointers were so carefully described because, deservingly so, they get the most attention. Pierce is walking into the sunset and Porter is the nature channel giraffe that just popped out the womb trying to get his legs. But those 3s from that duo were not the catalyst for the grassroots movement which led to such a Key Legislature. No, it was the pick-and-roll bread and butter of John Wall and Marcin Gortat. With two points and six assists, Wall was responsible for 17 of Washington’s 33 first quarter points—three assists led to Gortat buckets, three led to 3-pointers (two by Bradley Beal and one by Drew Gooden). With 10 points and three assists in the opening quarter, Gortat was also responsible for 17 of Washington’s first 33 points—one assist got Nene a jumper, one got Beal a 3-pointer, and one got Porter a layup.

On the game, Gortat led the Wizards with 24 points (5 assists) and Wall dropped 15 assists (19 points); eight assists of Wall’s led to Gortat buckets. Pierce and Porter may have snaked the Wizards to a Game 3 victory, but the two most talented and well-rounded players on the team, Wall and Gortat, served as the backbone. Gortat didn’t have much success versus Toronto in the regular season—averages of 25.7 minutes, six shots, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.3 rebounds was his story. And Gortat didn’t see one minute of action in any of the three regular season fourth quarters against the Raptors, not even in the last two games which were close. Randy Wittman refused to even give anything close to an answer as to why after Game 3; Gortat has averaged 7.7 minutes in the fourth quarter over the playoff series, scoring eight total points (3-6 FGs), with six rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. One would suspect that Nene’s subpar but OK play would have something to do with it. But the real answer might lie in Gortat’s defense. Usually one who struggles against smaller lineups and guarding against perimeter action, particularly in comparison to Nene (who rarely gets enough credit for his perimeter defense prowess), Gortat was near Nene levels in Game 3. Gortat often moved his feet well and protected the rim as usual, discouraging Toronto’s three-guard lineup from attacking the paint.

“They switch up their coverages at times, sometimes they’re trapping me, sometimes they’ve been soft,” said Wall after the game about why they’ve been able to now find pick-and-roll success versus Toronto. “We told Marc(h) just to be ready, sit in the pocket, be aggressive when you get the ball, and also make the right reads. He made some big key assists to guys that made 3-pointers.”

Yet, I keep getting back to one play: Beal’s made 3-pointer on his second attempt just over two minutes into the game. Past Wall, and Gortat, and Pierce, and the growth of Porter, it was evident long ago that the play of Beal is what could really elevate the Wizards. On this particular play, getting and hitting the shot seemed so elementary. Seen in the Vine below, Kyle Lowry is pointing to his right as the floor cleared in that direction with action running on his left. Maybe Lowry figured Beal would come off a screen, go into the paint, and switch sides of the floor. Instead, a nifty little 3-pointer produced by a double screen Gortat and Pierce that Terrence Ross went under. Amir Johnson, ignorant to the action, aided the screen set by Ross as he grabbed Gortat.

Lowry being not a full Lowry is how fans to the north might define the series—seems like they are just waiting for some post-series injury revelation in which to take solace. But really, Toronto’s porous defense aiding an oft-sputtering offense of Washington—plus, the Wizards just have a little more talent—is why the 5-seed is on the verge of a sweep.

Taking care of business on Sunday with a 4-0 series win is one significant test of Washington’s mettle. But how they respond against better defenses later in the bracket will more accurately set the ceiling of these Washington Wizards.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.