Extinct in Crunch Time Again — Wizards Dropped by Raptors, 113-103 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Extinct in Crunch Time Again — Wizards Dropped by Raptors, 113-103

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Updated: November 3, 2016

Is it a broken record if nobody knows how to play it? That’s the glitch the Washington Wizards are trying to correct as another game brought them to a screeching halt—a 113-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors. They are now 0-3 on a very young season but the issues they’re facing seem prehistoric.

The home opener started very much like the last preseason game, in the same venue versus the same team. The Wizards offense was patient, willingly moving the ball. Otto Porter was up to the task of guarding the hot-start DeMar DeRozan, going under screens to keep him out of his midrange comfort zone yet still contesting shots. Marcin Gortat earned early buckets—dimes from John Wall—by vivaciously running the floor and with well-timed seals of his defender in the paint. Bradley Beal looked comfortable, from the midrange, from the 3-point line, and on step-backs—he scored seven points in the game’s first four minutes.

The Wizards led 27-15 when Scott Brooks, who admitted to contemplating a rotation change before the game (but not quite yet), inserted Trey Burke and Kelly Oubre for Wall and Porter. It’s probably saying enough that neither Burke nor Oubre played a minute in the second half after a first half spurt where they combined for 13 minutes, four turnovers, four fouls, and a single rebound. The night’s troubles are far from being pinned on those two but the result was a 12-2 Toronto run to end the opening period. DeRozan, who scored 40 points on the evening, started 1-for-4 from the field with Porter primarily guarding him. Raptors coach Dwane Casey left DeRozan in for the entire first quarter, and he scored eight points after Brooks made his initial substitutions.

After two incomparable turnovers by Burke early in the second quarter, Wall was inserted to save souls around two and a half minutes in. He scored 10 points (4-4 free throws) and snagged four rebounds till intermission. Near the end, Beal reared his head to hit a corner 3-pointer after the basketball was moved around the horn like infielders after an out in baseball. And in the lead up, Porter scored seven points, thanks to two offensive rebounds and a bucket with the harm, in a span of 60 seconds. Of course, Otto followed that up with two turnovers, but you get the picture. The Wizards a whole weren’t perfect, miscommunicating in defending a Raptors 3-point attempt here and there, but it was a hotly contested match.

Out of the locker room, one coach’s plan to get his star going worked; the plan on the other side didn’t. DeRozan got hot, Beal did not. On one play DeRozan bullied his way on the baseline for a make at the rim—Otto tried (and you could argue that Porter deserved the losing game ball with 23 points and 13 rebounds). Another time Gortat didn’t step out enough on the shooter, so Kyle Lowry (18 points) hit a shot from deep. Wall was not happy with the help coverage and he and Gortat immediately discussed; Brooks had to be brought into settle the debate while Toronto shot free throws—Wall ended seemingly in the right.

Continuing, Beal was blocked by DeMarre Carroll on a planned drive after a Wizards timeout, and sometimes when that happens he stops going to the rack altogether. And the Raptors got extra aggressive in defending Beal, sometimes hedging an extra defender toward him around off-ball screens just to keep him from getting it. DeRozan scored 12 points on 4-for-9 shots in the first half and Beal countered with 11 points on 4-for-5 from the field. In the second half, DeRozan scored 28 points and Beal shot 1-for-8.

Did the extra attention affect the 2 guard’s play? “I’ll never say that there was anything they did to affect me, so no,” said Beal, solemnly. “I just didn’t make shots.”

Washington’s play just got sloppy as the third quarter continued and Toronto’s lead hovered between nine and 11 points. A bad pass by Markieff Morris turned into uncoordinated transition defense. Wall turned the ball over four times, including an offensive foul, to start the third and Toronto followed with points after least three of those giveaways (assists, if you will).

Less grasping at straws and more a display of flexibility, Brooks late in the third period inserted Tomas Satoransky, instead of Burke, along with Marcus Thornton (who wasn’t bad for a change). Satoransky was a steadying factor. He missed his first shot, a desperate throw at the basket on a drive, and lost a defensive battle or two, but he added two rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a sweet lefty reverse layup (assist from Wall) in 10 minutes of play, finishing a team-high plus-3 in plus/minus.

“I’m not giving up on anybody on our team, but I’m going to have to continue to search to find the second unit that’s going to move the scoreboard and complete on the defensive end,” said Brooks afterward. The coach tinkered with more even lineup alternatives, not so much in reaction to matchups but to create a spark.

For a large chunk to start the fourth quarter, the coach went with a five-man unit of either Gortat or Andrew Nicholson at 5; Porter at 4; and a three-guard rotation of Wall, Beal, Satoransky, or Thornton. It helped, especially in opening up the court for Wall, who attacked the basket with semi-reckless abandon. He scored 33 points on 13-for-19 shooting in the loss, all those makes coming at the rim on 15 attempts. (Wall also tallied 11 assists to 9 turnovers, upping those respective totals to 33 and a dubious 19 through three games.) With about 6:50 remaining, Wall stole the ball from Lowry—almost Kawhi Leonard-style—and raced down the court for an amazing reverse finish to tie the game at 92 seconds later.

The Wizards outscored Toronto by five points while playing 4-Otto in the fourth, but the deficit was still six points, 94-100, when Morris (for Satoransky) re-joined his starting companions on the court with 4:33 remaining. From that point on DeRozan outscored the Wizards, 10-9, and his teammates added five points, almost routinely gaining a check in the win column by 10 points.

Beal was helpless in his attempts to participate down the stretch. Good looks were not falling, and when that happens Bradley is less driven than when he watches his ball go through the net. Play-calling from Toronto opened a variety of opportunities for DeRozan against a variety of defensive looks and players from the Wizards. It was the second time that he’s scored 40 in the opening four games with 145 points on the season in total. Beal is now 16-for-42 (38%) through three games; but afterward Brooks saw a positive in him getting to the free throw line six times (he made three).

Wondering why Beal has yet to plug into this season, or even questioning why the seemingly complementary skill sets of he and Wall aren’t better meshing, seem like micro-problems that will ultimately self-resolve. The larger issue is why this Wizards team continues to struggle defending the 3-point line (10-25, Raptors, and giving up a league-high 45.1% on the season), much less making 3-pointers (3-10, Wizards, and a league-worst 25.5% through three games). Or just defending in general—Washington is yielding a Defensive Rating of 112.1, a league-high by three points.

“You just got to take pride in guarding your man one-on-one, individually at first, and then as a team we’ve got to help each other,” prescribed Wall after the game. “At times we show good defensive clips, and at times we show that we’re a terrible defensive team.”

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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.