Wizards/Raptors Game 6: Why the Wizards Fell Short | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards/Raptors Game 6: Why the Wizards Fell Short

Updated: April 28, 2018

The Washington Wizards 2017-18 season is over. The Toronto Raptors came into the Capital One Arena, stayed within striking distance for three quarters, and then imposed their will in the fourth quarter en route to a series-clinching victory.

Coach Scott Brooks blamed the loss on his team’s inability to hit shots and turnovers, but later he admitted–albeit begrudgingly–that the better team did indeed win. He then congratulated Raptors Coach Dwane Casey and called him the “Coach of the Year.”

Coach Casey was equally as effusive with his praise for Coach Brooks, and he also acknowledged that the Wizards weren’t quite at full strength without Otto and Jodie Meeks–yes, he said Jodie Meeks.

But Casey eventually removed his magnanimous hat and praised the exploits of his own team. He attributed the Raptors’ victory to the return of Fred VanVleet–after admitting that he downplayed VanVleet’s importance earlier in the series to build the confidence of the players who were playing in his absence–and the overall play of the bench. The Raptors bench scored 34 points and had a total plus/minus of plus-52, while the Wizards bench had 20 points and were minus-27.

So, why did the Wizards lose? Let us count the ways.

Kelly Oubre, MIA

This past Wednesday Kelly Oubre implied that Raptors guard Delon Wright did not play well at home, and then at the shoot-around prior to Game 6, he doubled down and then some by saying, “He can take it very personally but at the end of the day if you want to go to war, I’m the wrong person to go to war against. If I die, I’m going to come back to life and kill you.” In the words of Woody Harrelson, “Kelly, Kelly, Kelly…”

Oubre confidently made his first shot in the first quarter–a 3-pointer from 26 feet–which gave the Wizards an 11-point lead. Sadly, he missed his next six shots, which included an airball, and he did not score the remainder of the game despite playing 26 minutes. He exacerbated his lack of scoring by committing four fouls, which rendered him useless the entire game.

During one futile sequence, Oubre ignored John Wall’s pleas for the ball and decided to take on three Raptors between him and the basket. He missed the shot, and he sprinted down the other end of the floor to commit an ill-advised foul on Kyle Lowry.

Oubre was in the starting lineup because Otto Porter was out after undergoing a successful left lower leg fasciotomy for compartment syndrome. This was Oubre’s chance to shine, but instead he continued to struggle as he did over the last quarter of the season.

Porter’s presence, even when he was clearly hobbled by injuries, spread the floor a bit, and gave Wall and Beal more space with which to operate. And when his shot didn’t fall, Porter still had a masterful mid-range game as his Plan B. But with Oubre’s inability to hit an outside shot or even get to the basket, he was a liability on the offensive end of the floor and was basically rendered useless.

Coach Brooks was more diplomatic in his analysis of Oubre:

“He didn’t shoot the ball, he’s been struggling from the 3 for awhile now. But you hope after that first one went in he’d feel good offensively, but he just didn’t get in a good rhythm. A couple of shots didn’t go his way….I thought he got fouled maybe once or twice..but he gives you great effort. He was guarding a really, really great player, one of the best players in the league, DeRozan.”

All Minutes Matter

Prior to Game 6, Coach Brooks boldly proclaimed that worrying about the number of minutes played by starters was overrated due to the number of days off the players had between games. That sounded good on paper, but even a casual observer could see that in Game 5 there was a direct correlation between minutes played by Wall (43) and his fourth quarter effectiveness (2-6 from the field and just four points).

In Game 6, Wall played 40 minutes and Beal played 43. They combined to shoot 2-for-9 in the fourth quarter for just 10 points, and all of Wall’s points were from the free throw line, not the field. It is worth mentioning that the Wizards not named Beal or Wall scored just four points on 2-for-7 shooting, which wasn’t exactly helpful. But Wall and Beal lacked energy and crispness in that last quarter, and it seemed to be directly related to the number of minutes they played.

Raptors Coach Casey agreed:

“Beal had 43 minutes, John had 40 and [Markieff] Morris had 38 so they were logging some heavy minutes and I thought that was the difference in the game and that was credited to the second unit.”

To his credit, after the game, Coach Brooks maintained that the excessive minutes played by his star back-court had no effect on the final outcome of the game, “I don’t think the minutes were a deciding factor. …They outplayed us.”

It’s A Matter of Trust

The Wizards led 78-73 after three quarters, and they started the fourth with Beal, before subbing in John Wall after 27 seconds. Wall was on the floor with Gortat, Satoransky, Ty Lawson, and Mike Scott. The Raptors had DeRozan and Lowry on the bench with Jakob Poeltl, C.J. Miles, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam on the floor.

The first 5:45 of the fourth quarter, the Raptors bench outscored the Wizards mix of starters and bench players, 15-7.  Then Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas checked into the game, and they stretched the lead as high as eight points. By the time DeRozan re-entered the game, the lead that was initially six points had slowly escalated to double figures. Lowry and DeRozan were instrumental in their team’s fourth quarter performance, but it was the bench–anchored by VanVleet–that did the heavy lifting.

Coach Casey said it was his trust in VanVleet and the bench that helped the Raptors win:

“It is nothing different then we have done. Just added Freddy [Fred VanVleet] to the group. That is the difference. We tried not to make a big deal out of it while he was out, keep the other guys motivated but he was the difference. I thought that little group has a playing personality that he does make a difference with that group. He is kind of the engine, the toughness. It is that little birdie on the shoulder and I thought it really propelled Pascal [Siakam] and those other guys to give them a sense of confidence.”

When Wall was injured, Coach Brooks entrusted Tomas Satoransky to lead the team, and he did yeoman’s work and was instrumental in helping the Wizards gain a playoff berth. But once the playoffs started, Brooks leaned heavily on the newly signed Ty Lawson to run the team. Lawson had six points and no assists in 19 minutes of play and for the series he averaged 5.7 points and 3.4 assists. Satoransky, who played shooting guard and small forward during this series against the Raptors, but not one minute at point guard, had just two points with no assists in Game 6, and averaged just 1.0 point and 0.6 assists in the playoffs.

Coach Casey danced with the girls who brung him, while Coach Brooks opted to experiment and tinker with lineups, and it ended up being one of the factors that prematurely ended the Wizards season. The North won this war, and the Wizards were bounced a round earlier than they were the previous year.

Next up for the Raptors? The winner of the Pacers/LeBronCavaliers series. Next up for the Wizards? Exit interviews, draft plans and personnel decisions. Clearly, we aren’t in 2015 anymore.

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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.