Key Legislature: Wizards 82 vs Raptors 84 — New Lineup, Familiar Result | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 82 vs Raptors 84 — New Lineup, Familiar Result

By
Updated: November 29, 2015

TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs Raptors, Regular Season Game 14, Nov. 28, 2015, by Rashad Mobley (@rashad20).

Raptors

Prior to last night’s game, Randy Wittman pushed all the buttons he knew how to push to “make his own luck,” as he called it, in an effort to shake the Wizards out of a three-game losing doldrums. Wittman was unusually playful in the pregame presser, saying the Wizards needed to play like “crazed animals,” and he joked with Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post about not wearing a tie the other night. And even though Nene and Gary Neal were unavailable due to calf and groin injuries, respectively, Wittman made a bit of a roster power move by benching Kris Humphries. Jared Dudley was placed in the lineup to man the stretch 4 position. This was not on par with Steve Kerr’s benching of Andrew Bogut in favor of Andre Iguodala in the NBA Finals, but Wittman’s hand was forced given how well Dudley had been playing on both ends of the floor. It was a necessary move.

The first nine minutes of the game made Coach Wittman look like a a successful, if mad, scientist. Dudley wasn’t particularly prolific on the scoring end, but the Raptors’ respect for his outside shot improved the offensive spacing—something that was lacking during the Wizards’ three-game losing streak. This newfound space worked to the advantage of both Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat. Beal was able to both get to the rim and find his outside shot, while Gortat now had space to roll to the basket, get off hook shots in the post, and grab rebounds on both ends of the floor. It was 17-9 with 3:56 left in the first quarter, but the Raptors climbed right back into the game.

Kyle Lowry took advantage of Wall being on the bench, scoring five quick points, then found Cory Joseph for a wide open 3-pointer. Beal came back with two free throws and Otto Porter hit a 3 of his own to put the Wizards back up by seven, but in basketball that’s well within striking distance. That was a recurring theme throughout the night: The Wizards would play well enough to get a slight lead, and then Lowry, Joseph and DeRozan would claw their way back into the game. Neither team looked fluid on offense, forced to take difficult shots, which was clearly reflected on the scoreboard at halftime: 45-39, Wizards.(1)

It could be argued that a horrible shooting night for John Wall was the reason the Wizards were unable to pull away from the Raptors. He stayed aggressive on offense but returns were minimal. Wall forced outside shots, he could not finish consistently once he got to the basket, and the few times he was able to lead a fast break he turned the ball over, or failed to convert. Wall finished with 18, but the quietest 18 points he’s even scored. But that was not the reason the Wizards struggled.

The Wizards struggled due to their putrid bench. Neal, Nene and Gooden (calf, back) were injured, Dudley was in the starting lineup, and the remaining cast of bench characters (Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, Kris Humphries, and Kelly Oubre) shot just 2-for-17 and scored a total of eight points. Conversely, the Raptors bench, which also played just four players, shot 10-for-18 and scored 27—12 of them coming from Cory Joseph, who had 12 points and six assists. Joseph found his fellow teammate when necessary, he hit the few open shots he had, and he even broke up a John Wall fastbreak by poking the ball out of his hands just as he went up for a layup. More on him later.

Meanwhile, the Wizards maintained their lead by the slimmest of margins, but the fluidity of the first nine minutes dried up. Dudley, who played 30 minutes the previous night in Boston, looked tired and ineffective on the offensive end of the floor. Gortat was no longer getting the precious offensive touches he so desperately wants and craves (and probably deserves), and only Beal (7 third quarter points) and Wall (8 fourth quarter points) were scoring with any consistency. With 4:24 left in the fourth quarter, the Wizards finally unraveled.

Washington went scoreless for nearly four and a half minutes, as DeMar DeRozan and Lowry scored seven unanswered points to cut the Wizards lead to one point. Wall, Beal, Gortat, and Sessions missed missed shots—there were also turnovers and a 24-second violation. A pair of free throws from Wall ended the dry spell, but DeRozan earned two shots from the stripe at the other end to bring the Raptors back within one.

After a timeout, Toronto intentionally fouled Wall. He missed both shots with 3.8 seconds to play (Wall would say after the game that his free throw misses, not his shooting, cost the Wizards the game), which set up the game-winning shot for the Raptors.

ESPN TrueHoop blog Raptors Republic broke down the shot beautifully:

DeMar DeRozan, who’d given the Wizards problems all night, drove to the basket, winning the angle on Sessions. Garrett Temple left Joseph to cut off the baseline, and DeRozan found Joseph open for the wide-open 3. The last play ended up being a microcosm of the entire game: Wall was out of the picture, completely, DeRozan made a play when he needed to, and driving past two members of the Wizards’ bench (Sessions and Temple) to find Cory Joseph, who had been the spark off the bench for the Raptors.

After the game, the Raptors Head Coach Duane Casey, Lowry and DeRozan discussed the importance of playing together, staying resilient and getting the win, despite not playing their best. The Wizards, as to be expected, were not as optimistic.

Coach Wittman was impressed with the defensive effort, but was disappointed that his team seemed hesitant to take open shots. Wall was impressed that he stayed aggressive while finding his teammates, despite shooting 6-for-25 and leading the Wizards to just five fastbreak points. Gortat, who was clearly frustrated by his diminished role in the second half, Washington’s missing personnel and the team’s fourth straight loss vented about the team overall:

“We got to cut the negativity that we have coming from players, coaches, staff, media. We just got to cut that It’s not even fun coming here anymore. It’s so much negativity. I understand we’re losing games but damn, we just got to cut that right now. It’s not fun at al I think it starts with big expectations before the season. Everybody though we’re going to go to conference finals and stuff like that. We didn’t make any spectacular trades or signings in the offseason. It’s not like we’re supposed to be three times a much better team this year. We lost Paul Pierce, a guy who’s a great leader, experienced player. We signed three players that they deliver good stuff to the table for us but at the end of the day they’re not All-Stars. Expectations are high and we are not up there yet.”

Despite Wittman’s pregame optimism, a lineup switch, a yeoman defensive effort, and owning the lead for 45 of the game’s 48 minutes, the Wizards lost their fourth game in five nights, and fell to 6-8. Next up? LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

[Ed. note: About the tweet at the top, Joseph did shake Beal but Big Panda fell over after stepping on Gortat’s foot.]


  1. Not a season low. That was the 36 points scored against Boston on Nov. 27.
Rashad Mobley on FacebookRashad Mobley on InstagramRashad Mobley on Twitter
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.