Key Legislature: Wizards 91 at Raptors 94 — Cold 2015 Ends in The North | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards 91 at Raptors 94 — Cold 2015 Ends in The North

Updated: December 31, 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 at Raptors, Regular Season Game 30, Dec. 31, 2015, by Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

After ending 2014 on a high note with a 22-9 record through 31 days of December, the Washington Wizards stumbled to begin 2015 by losing two straight games. But the ship was someone steadied with a 9-8 record in January, albeit followed by February lows and a 3-9 record that month. The Wizards merely hovered with a 24-27 record in 2015 regular season games to close out last season. But, as Wizards fans are well aware, late-April brought unprecedented success with a 4-0 first round playoff series sweep of the Toronto Raptors, but then a disappointing 4-2 series loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round.

It was truly an up-and-down 2015 calendar year for the Wizards—more down as they were 44-47 in all NBA games during the last 12 months; 14-16 in 2015 regular season games during this current season. But, playoff success cannot and will not be forgotten, and is easily the most memorable part of 2015. Which leads us to how the Wizards ended the year: with a loss to those familiar Raptor foes in Toronto and a quite uncertain path to the 2016 playoffs.

The 94-91 final score in Toronto’s favor (or favour) is not a great indicator as to how the game actually went. There were positives—the Wizards used a 26-17 fourth quarter to claw back after being down a game-high 14 points after the first field goal of the period and trimming the deficit to one point, and then getting possession back, with 28 seconds remaining in the game. Washington took, and missed, four 3-pointers as their last shots, the last three desperation heaves (from high-percentage zones, but for Porter’s ATB attempt) when down three and the clock ticking, while Toronto merely made two free throws to seal the victory.

The Wizards went on a 26-13 run to get close with simple ingredients: sharing the ball and not turning it over once. Seven different Wizards helped score the 26 points, led by Ramon Sessions’ six points. A lineup of John Wall, Sessions, Otto Porter, Jared Dudley, and Marcin Gortat served as catalyst. Six assists, three from Wall, were handed out on 10 made field goals as Washington’s offense, lackluster all game, found ways to drive the gaps with the Wall-Sessions combo, which led to easy, confident shots for others.

But prior to the fourth quarter: Wall didn’t control his team well; Gortat missed a variety of bunny shots, which visibly increased his frustration and dwindled his confidence each time; and Toronto’s Bismack Biyombo was savage on the offensive boards, making Washington’s only two available big men, Gortat and Kris Humphries, seem like mere, forgotten ornaments being swung from a Christmas tree on its way to the dump. Newcomer Jarell Eddie audibly bricked shots, Garrett Temple disappeared (often to the bench with fouls), and Kelly Oubre didn’t provide much—that generally negated strong efforts from Porter and Dudley. Washington’s timing mechanism didn’t transverse international borders very well and spacing must’ve been thrown off by the metric system.

Sure, the Wizards played nice defense against the Raptors. Their 98.4 points allowed per 100 possessions (DefRtg) on Wednesday was their fifth-best rate all season. The 89.3 DefRtg allowed in the previous loss to the Raptors (via a Cory Joseph buzzer-beater), was the second-best outing of the season. The Wizards can stop the Raptors, it seems, but in this latest game that achievement was undercut by putting Toronto on the free throw line 39 times (32 makes), while Washington went just 13-for-17 from the charity stripe. Sure, there were several questionable calls against the Wizards, but the team still came nowhere close to controlling the physical nature of the game, despite their grinding defense. The Raptors provided a 15-8 advantage in offensive rebounds and a 21-6 lead in second-chance points. The Wizards got manned, while Wall and Randy Wittman’s overall offense looked pitiful. A 95.2 Offensive Rating (OffRtg) on Wednesday was the seventh-lowest of the season; the previous 87.2 OffRtg versus Toronto was the second-lowest. The Raptors certifiably improved their defense in the offseason (thanks in no small part to the acquisitions of DeMarre Carroll and Biyombo), while the Wizards are still trying to figure out both ends of the floor.

The game’s crucial moment came via a 12-3 Toronto run to end the last 2:45 of the third quarter. Six points came via DeMar DeRozan (34 points on the evening), and six came via Terrence Ross (14 points off the bench). Poor team defense from Kris Humphries and Kelly Oubre in particular were taken advantage of, the former with interior defense like a sieve, the latter simply being out of place as a rookie.

Healthy bodies—any healthy body—can’t be made available soon enough. Nene to help the defense, Bradley Beal to help the offense, Drew Gooden to stretch the floor and give Dudley a break, Alan Anderson to help lock down the perimeter. The Washington Wizards exit 2015 licking their wounds, how much into 2016 will they let their wounds lick them?

The Good.

The Bad.

The Ugly.

The Dudley.

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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 currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.