Key Legislature: Wizards 88 vs Raptors 97 — Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 88 vs Raptors 97 — Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt

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Updated: January 9, 2016

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 34, Jan. 8, 2016, by Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

It’s an old time-tested refrain of losers, in sports: Until we do something-or-another that we are supposed to do for the entire allotted time during which we are allowed to do it, we will continue to lose. Or, as Randy Wittman put it after losing on a Friday night:

  • “Whether it’s a whole quarter or a partial quarter—and we take shortcuts—we try to take easy ways out. We don’t make hustle plays.”
  • “The last three games we’re not committed for 48 minutes. It’s hard winning games in this league. It’s not easy. If it were easy, everybody would do it. It’s hard.”
  • “If you’re not committed to play hard in the right way for 48 minutes, it’s gonna be tough to win games.”

All true, if you really think about it. The easy part is thinking that games come down to stats and strategy, two areas fun to analyze. The former is much more quantifiable than the latter, but both are overrated, perhaps, because the tangibility is easy to the point to. Otherwise we wouldn’t know what to do. It’s unclear if the Wizards know what to do.

Something about this team is not uniform. Usually, the coach is the first to blame. But high turnover rates (not a pun) are far from what makes the winning job truly difficult. And sometimes it’s more because of circumstance—a new voice can simply trigger chemical reactions in the brain. Check the stats for a team’s first game after a coach is let go. They usually win.

None of this is to definitively say that the Wizards need a new coaching voice or else, else, else. Because, really, who else is going to shoot? This is to say that this is what happened to the Wizards on a Friday night against their nemesis, the Toronto Raptors. Judge as you may.

First Quarter.

A Verizon Center, sleepy, one eye open, the other sealed shut by eye gunk. There was zero energy for the home team at the onset. (Typical.)

But, Otto sweeped and scrapped around the court, and Gortat ran the floor for dunks. The Wizards overall had more freedom in the absence of the injured DeMarre Carroll. Jared Dudley was even able to make a couple driving plays. Kyle Lowry, for your pick of reasons, received a smattering of boos that grew from, like, one dude to a speck of five. Toronto was just careless in the early-going. And toward the very end, Nene made it well-known that he was there to ensure that Bismack Biyombo would not have his way on the glass again. Sure, DeMar DeRozan scored 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting in the first period, and, sure, John Wall committed four turnovers but the Wizards did it with old fashioned gumption. They led 26-18.

Second Quarter.

Nene and Biyombo continued to make minced meat. Ramon Sessions and Cory Joseph battled point guard wits. John Wall returned to the court early. As go he, so go the Wizards. He’s the head of the defensive snake, the driver of the rear-view mirrorless Ferrari on offense, the tone-setter. But his Wizards got careless midway through the second. Four turnovers in three minutes—Sessions, Porter, Temple, Dudley. Porter’s was really Wall’s fault, because of a bad pass (too hard, too high). Momentum quickly swung from Washington’s favor to a drag-’em-out ugly battle of turnovers from both teams. At the end, the two teams combined for 42 turnovers—a season-high 23 from Toronto and 19 from Washington, ranked eighth-most on their schedule so far.

Wall did hit two floaters late in the second quarter. Before the game, in a more casual warm-up session than usual (Wall plays a ton of minutes these days), Wall would float up test shots as if he were on that DJ Screw while assistant coach Howard Eisley practiced lightly fouling Wall while he lightly practiced his Chris Paul yell-appeal to the referees. It worked until it didn’t; Wall’s third floater late in the second was an airball and he shot 2-for-8 for the period (6 points). Kyle Lowry, meanwhile, titted DeRozan’s tat with nine points of his own in the second quarter. Halftime score: 47 all.

Third Quarter.

Here comes gangbusters; let the #WittmanJava flow. The Wizards jumped out to an entire four-point lead, 55-51, out of halftime. They looked to get Marcin Gortat going and he looked to attack Jonas Valanciunas. And he did! (Sort of.) A great, position-gaining baby hook attempt fell just short, but soon after a running hook did work for Gortat. And then Wall weaved around a defenseless Valanciunas for a layup. And then Garrett Temple unsheathed a running dunk (and also produced a couple of the few good defensive possessions versus DeRozan all night). Raptors coach Dwane Casey called a timeout at the 8:14 mark. Then his Raptors went on an 11-2 run. Then they went on an 11-4 run. Then the quarter was over (yes, a 22-6 run to end the period in total). Then the game was pretty much over.

What happened in a capsule, a sequence: The Wizards opted for a non-screen switch as the Raptors brought the ball up the court. The result? DeRozan drove right at Wall to the basket and scored on a pretty move in the post. Wall immediately followed that up with a drive of his own and a sweet over-the-head pass to Gortat. That was followed up with the Wizards settling for a big-little switch and James Johnson scoring at the rim. Wall followed that up with a turnover—just another bad pass attempt. Then Johnson scored again; Otto Porter is an above-average defender, but he also lets guys drive by him way too much. Not long after, miscommunication in transition defense allowed Luis Scola to score an easy make at the rim. Wall countered with a pull-up from 18 feet, but then DeRozan countered by hitting a 3 in Wall’s face, to which Wall responded with, you guessed it, another turnover. Including that, the teams combined for five turnovers in 40 seconds, three from the Wizards. Neither contestant looked good, but the Raptors were able to manipulate Washington’s defense with switches to get desired opportunities. Randy Wittman’s offense, meanwhile, sputtered with uncertainty. DeRozan scored 11 points in the third and Toronto won the quarter 26-14 to lead the game 73-61 heading into the final stanza.

Fourth Quarter.

The game was over by now, save for the prerequisite comeback in the NBA—the Wizards fought their way back to within six points with two minutes left after getting down by as many as 14 points with five minutes left. Ramon Sessions scored 11 points in the period, but Lowry and DeRozan combined to score Toronto’s first 16 points of the quarter and scored 20 of their 24 total points in the period. Cory Joseph added a layup with 2:26 left and then two free throws at the very end. Down seven with 14 seconds left, the Wizards opted to foul; Joseph made ‘em and then Wittman called a meaningless timeout to draw up a nine-point play that never worked.

The three daggers of the final quarter when the game was really decided in the third quarter, if you will: Kyle Lowry pump-faking Wall into the Wizards bench and then hitting a 3 to put Toronto up 14 with 5:41 left; Wall launching a ball over Gortat’s head and out of bounds when the Wizards were trying to stay within 10 points at the 3:32 mark; Wittman drawing up a nice after-timeout play that would’ve kept the Wizards within six points at the 1:24 mark, but Wall’s layup got rejected by Biyombo.

And so the Wizards were sent into the night, dejected. Wittman spoke in his Wittman-isms, also bemoaning Wall and his teammates for not being married to the run: “If you’re not committed to it, you’re gonna take jogs down the court rather than sprints to the corner like you’re supposed to and spread the floor, so it creates driving angles. There’s a lot of times I thought we changed our style of play to walk the ball up rather than run.”

Gortat ducked the media and any negativity, an increasing habit from him as the season wears on. Earlier, it was declared that Wall would “be a while” [due to treatment] before the same team media liaison declared that Wall would not be speaking at all that evening. Someone played defense, after all.

Wittman had the kicker in his presser: “They did what they wanted with us. They got guys on players that they wanted. As I told them, they’re gonna pick who it is they’re gonna go after. They took turns around the block on us.”

The 15-19 Washington Village Bicycles, ranked 12th in the Eastern Conference, 8-11 at home, and 7-8 on the road, play three of the next four games away from the Verizon Center—in Orlando tonight, in Chicago on Monday, hosting Milwaukee on Wednesday, and in Indiana next Friday. Then, they get a five-game homestand. Then, on Jan. 26, they return to Toronto for a match that begins a stretch of 14 of 22 like a rolling stone away from home. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Wizards rarely do.

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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.