Ball Still Does Not Lie — Wizards at Raptors, DC Council 30 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Ball Still Does Not Lie — Wizards at Raptors, DC Council 30

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Updated: December 31, 2015

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Raptors, Game 30, Dec. 30, 2015, via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20).

M.V.P.

The Wizards were within four points of the Raptors with 4:34 left in the second quarter, but then the Raptors—mainly due to DeMar DeRozan’s ability to get into the lane at will (he hit six free throws in a 35-second span)—put their foot on the gas to lead 52-41 at halftime. Coach Randy Wittman was grumpy throughout the first half, and it was simply because of the “ridiculous” foul calls. His team shot poorly (36% FGs) and lacked aggression on both offense (just six free throws) and on the boards (11 of Toronto’s 32 rebounds were of the offensive variety). Yes, there was another half of basketball to be played, but the tone seemed to be trending downward for the Wizards.

Otto Porter changed that at the beginning of the third quarter.

Porter scored eight of his 11 third quarter points in a 2:26 span, and cut the Raptors’ lead from 12 to two points. He began the mini-scoring binge by passing up an outside shot and aggressively driving to the basket, where he was fouled. Comcast SportsNet’s Phil Chenier observed that that type of aggressive play would help the Wizards get back into the game, and he was correct. Porter only made one of two free throws, but he felt confident enough to keep shooting, even though he was wincing and limping due to a sore groin.

On his next offensive possession, he ran DeMarre Carroll through two baseline screens, took a pass from John Wall, and hit an 18-footer. The possession after that, Porter didn’t even wait for a screen, he just ran toward Wall with his hands outstretched, took a dribble, and hit a 17-footer. Two possessions later Wall passed up an open 3-pointer from the top of the key and found Porter open for a corner 3. The Wizards would eventually cut Toronto’s lead to two points

Porter, just like the rest of the Wizards’ offense on Wednesday night, could not maintain that pace in the quarter. By the time he scored his 11th point on a 3-pointer, the deficit was 12 points once again. But on a night when the offense was offensive and fluidity was elusive, Porter’s brief scoring binge was refreshing. And yes, that is an awfully low bar.

L.V.P.

For the second consecutive game since being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Marcin Gortat was not quite himself. Against the Clippers he grabbed 16 rebounds, but shot just 5-for-13 from the field. Against the Raptors Gortat shot 5-for-15, scored 12 points, and grabbed nine rebounds. But eight of his nine misses were inside the 10-foot mark, and two were featured in this comical sequence:

Missed bunnies are nothing new for Gortat, and missed bunnies alone are certainly not enough for him to wear the L.V.P. crown. However, his inability to slow Bismack Biyombo (double-double) and Jonas Valanciunas—two players who are now on his sh*t list—had more of an effect on the outcome of the game. For one of Valanciunas’ offensive rebounds, the Lithuanian maneuvered around Gortat after a second free throw and tipped the ball in for what amounted to a four-point possession for Toronto. On another possession, DeMar DeRozan, who scored 34 on the night, drove right by Gortat, missed the shot, but jumped for a second time to tip his shot in, before Gortat could put his hands on the ball.

Gortat was not the only player allowing the Raptors to rule the rebounding war—the Wizards allowed 15 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points. But as the starting center, the Wizards’ primary big man, and the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, even he knew he came up woefully short in the rebounding department: “I totally screwed up,” Gortat said afterward. “I take full responsibility for that. I’m a much better player than I showed today. Those offensive rebounds they had over my head … it’s unacceptable.”

Wall vs. Lowry.

On the Opening Statements here on TAI, and over at Raptors Republic, Blake Murphy and I had a debate about whether John Wall or Kyle Lowry was the better Eastern Conference point guard. Murphy went with Lowry citing Win Shares, PER, TS%, and the Raptors’ better record. I did not disagree with Lowry’s slight edge, but I did point out that Wall has been shorthanded the majority of December and still averaged 22.6 points and 11.7 assists in the month of December.

That trend continued in Canada.

Wall had an impressive stat line of 19 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, and five steals to go with just two turnovers, but he shot just 8-for-23 from the field (he shot 6-for-25 in the first meeting against the Raptors), and his 3-point shot was blocked as time expired. He was without Bradley Beal and Gary Neal, who could have picked up some of the scoring slack, as well as Nene, who would have surely put a body on Biyombo.

Kyle Lowry had just 12 points on 2-for-12 shooting with six assists, and six turnovers, and was a non-factor the majority of the night, but unlike Wall’s teammates, who were only able to catch fire in very limited spurts (specifically Porter and Dudley), DeRozan had 34 and made shots from every impossible angle. And when Lowry’s shot was not falling, his frontcourt was there to reward the offense with a rebound and an extra possession. Toronto and Lowry currently have room for error, while the Wizards and Wall—as Coach Wittman alluded to after the game—are not very good and have to play a complete game in their current state if they want to be victorious. It is still advantage Lowry, for right now.

That Game Was … A Disappointing Way to End 2015

After going on a four-game winning streak last week, the Wizards closed out 2015 with two disappointing losses. One was a blowout to the Clippers on their home floor, another, two nights later, was a defeat to a team they swept from the playoffs just a few months ago. The glass half-full club can take comfort in knowing that Wall and Gortat (the past two games notwithstanding) are playing better in December than they were in November. That bodes well for January when, presumably, Beal, Neal, Nene, Alan Anderson, and Drew Gooden will join the regular rotation. And then (and only then) will the league see the true power of the Dark Si—I mean the Wizards.

The pessimistic, glass half-empty side will ignore what could be when the injuries subside, and focus on the facts. The Wizards are two games below .500 and in 11th place in an improved Eastern Conference. They are only three games out of the eighth spot, but just 3.5 from falling down to 13th. The new year sounds nice, but some health and consistency are needed, too.

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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.