After completing the Western four game road trip with a .500 record, the Washington Wizards looked to get regrouped at home as they begin a 10-game stretch against multiple formidable playoff bound teams. After the Wizards came back from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit, they failed to complete the comeback in overtime and fell to the Toronto Raptors 120-116.
The first quarter started with a hot-shooting start for the Raptors. In the first seven minutes of the game, they were 9 of 13 from the field including 5 of 5 from beyond the arc. The Wizards big men, neither Marcin Gortat nor Nene could not get out to defend Amir Johnson and Patrick Peterson respectively from deep. Many of the Raptors shots were open because of constant ball movement. The Wizards would themselves start to heat up from the field as they went 11 of 16 from the field in the quarter. Although the Raptors air-balled one 3-point attempt, it was the only attempt out of eight that they missed. As a result, the Raptors held a minimal 33-30 lead after the first quarter.
The second quarter started miserably for the Wizards as the Raptors went on a 14-0 run caused by the continued hot shooting of the Raptors. Lou Williams started by making all three of his field goals including two from 3. The Wizards only had three points six minutes into the quarter, which allowed the deficit to soar to 19. Although neither team shot well from the field, the nine additional shots the Raptors were able to get from the field allowed them to maintain a double digit lead for the rest of the half. The Wizards had opportunities to cut the lead potentially to single digits, getting as close as 13 with the ball, but failed to have a true momentum changing play. Going into halftime the Wizards faced a large task at hand with a 65-50 deficit.
The Wizards started the second half with a better efficiency on the offensive end. However, like any scoring run, it had to start on the defensive end. That did not happen as the Raptors exerted their physical dominance with their front court. Even though the quarter was evenly matched, the Wizards could not put any kind of a dent into the huge lead Toronto held. Going into the fourth there was little hope as they trailed 94-78.
Usually when the fourth quarter starts, Andre Miller is in the game quarterbacking the team, but coach Randy Whitman, perhaps realizing it was “now or never,” started John Wall after just a short rest. The Wizards started anchoring down on defense and making the hustle plays necessary to get back into the game. Midway through the quarter, the Wizards had already cut the lead to single digits with a 17-4 run. For the final minutes of the game the Raptors hit big shots and came up with three blocks to keep the lead. The Wizards had the ball down three with 34.4 seconds to go when Paul Pierce “The Truth” hit a 3-pointer to tie the game. A defensive stop on the other end by John Wall against Lou Williams sent the game into overtime tied at 109.
In overtime, the defense from the first three quarters of the game returned as the Wizards gave up open looks on the screen-and-roll. After Wall cut the lead to three on a transition lay-in, an egregiously bad foul call against Beal defensively cost the Wizards the ball.
Why the Wizards Lost:
- Weak defense throughout the first three quarters of play allowed the Raptors to have 94 points going into the fourth quarter. When the Wizards had a weak offensive quarter from their bench in the second quarter, they were in a deep hole for the entire game.
- The Wizards had 22 turnovers, far above their season average, which hurt their chances of getting additional shot opportunities.
- The Wizards only had 25 points from the bench, 19 of which came from Kris Humphries and Otto Porter, who were playing multiple minutes with the starting lineup instead of Marcin Gortat and Paul Pierce. This lack of production from the bench will hurt come playoff time.
The Wizards will look to bounce back at home as they take on the struggling but talented Charlotte Hornets on Monday. After coming back from a grueling west coast trip where the Wizards played four games in five nights while traveling it will be important for the team to be well rested before hitting the stretch run into the All-Star break. Specifically, John Wall, who has been dealing with migraines and a sore ankle, said “I’m going to rest and decide what I’m going to do on Monday”. The recent injury to Kemba Walker of Charlotte may play a role in how much, if at all, Wall is utilized.