April 22, 2018 | Capital One Arena | Washington, D.C.
After an impressive Game 3 victory to avoid a potential sweep, the Washington Wizards had bigger things on their mind in their series with the Toronto Raptors. Despite another slow start, the Wizards were able to pull out Game 4 through adversity to tie the series at 2-2. Not just this season, but for many years during the John Wall era, Washington seems to play their best basketball when their backs are up against the proverbial Wall. No one on the team can seem to explain why that is and why they cannot put forth such performances at all times, but it has catapulted the Wizards to a best-of-3 situation.
Forgettable First Half
The home team never led before halftime as they had an extended slump before intermission. Offensively, they scored just 40 points on 16-for-47 (34 percent) shooting including just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc. No one besides the two centers were shooting better than 50 percent from the floor as a team that rarely has problems scoring seemed to be in a shell of themselves. Defensively, they struggled to contest shots without fouling. Despite missing all five of his first-quarter field goal attempts, DeMar DeRozan was gifted 12 free throw attempts in the first frame alone. Kyle Lowry has not been anywhere near as lethal as his backcourt mate this series, but he has been draining his three-point attempts and that continued as he was 3-for-4 in the first half and even hit one to start the second half. When it was all said and done, the Wizards were probably lucky to only be down 11 at the break.
“They came into the game looking to attack our feet and they did with great success, 30 points in that first quarter to our 22 but we did a good job in the second half of defending and doing a good job of passing the ball,” Scott Brooks said. “If we’re going to load up, we got to be able to step up and make shots. We didn’t make any shots in the first half and those are all good shots. Obviously, I didn’t look at the tape yet. From my perspective, I thought they were good shots.”
On the bright side, the first half included two ferocious poster dunks from Wall.
Bradley Beal Stays In A Groove
It is no secret that the All-Star shooting guard struggled in Toronto before finding his way in Game 3. The home cooking might have been just what the doctor ordered as the ‘Real Deal’ continued right where he left off on Friday. Beal finished with 31 points on 10-for-19 shooting including 5-for-7 from deep, tying a playoff career-high in made threes, in just 32 minutes of play. 12 of those came in the third quarter when Washington matched their point total from the entire first half with 40. If you ask anyone on the team, they will say that Beal’s showing in Canada was the anomaly and what he is currently achieving is the norm. As long as he continues to string together strong performances, the Wizards will be tough to defeat.
John Wall Brings It Home
With just under five minutes to play in the game, Beal was called for his sixth personal foul. The game was tied at 92, Capital One Arena was chanting “Ref You Suck”, and Washington was staring down the barrel of a 3-1 series deficit. Wall, almost single-handedly, ensured that did not happen. The five-time All-Star hit a driving finger roll layup with 3:50 left to tie the game at 94, he threw an alley-oop to Markieff Morris to give his team the lead, he converted on a running layup in transition to put Washington up three with 1:57 to play, and he hit a dagger 16-foot fadeaway jumper with 58.1 seconds to play to give the Wizards a six-point lead. The home team ended the game on a 14-6 run after Beal was disqualified from the game and Wall was involved in 10 of those points. After starting the game 7-for-19 (36.8 percent) from the field, Wall made three of his last five shots after Beal left the equation.
“I just gathered my emotions, gathered my thoughts and told my team we were going to win, regardless,” Beal recounted. “I knew if we still had John [Wall] in the game I loved our chances. He did a great job of leading the guys and icing the game with a nice jumper in the corner and getting stops. So, that was definitely a maturity level that I hit, and a face of adversity that I had to overcome, just gather myself and be a leader, being vocal and keeping everyone encouraged in the game.”
Defense For The Win
Toronto head coach Dwane Casey made it a point of emphasis to his team that they had to stop committing so many turnovers. That detail of the game plan did not carry over to execution as the Raptors still had 18 turnovers in the game leading to 19 Wizards points. DeRozan got his with 35 points, but Washington did a pretty good job of limiting Toronto’s efficiency. The Raptors shot just 43 percent from the field and were held to 18 points on 34.8 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. After 41 made three-pointers over the first four quarters, nearly 14 per game, the Raptors only had seven triples on Sunday. Washington’s 16 fast break points in the second half is a direct correlation to their strong defense.
“We made some key adjustments in Game 3 and we made some minor adjustments in this game,” Brooks said. “Hopefully they keep working. We’re playing against the best team in the East, it’s not going to be any easier. Every game in a long series becomes more physical and you have to do things with great execution. You have to play possession-to-possession by [giving] everything you have through exhaustion. We know their plays and they know ours. It’s about just continuing to execute and don’t take any play off. Sounds pretty simple, but it’s hard to do when you talk about 100 possessions. All five guys have to be on a streak.”
Having an All-Star guard, not a big, foul out in the fourth quarter of a pivotal playoff game is always peculiar. The manner of the sixth foul was also questionable as it seemed if anything it was a charge and offensive foul, but most of all, it was a play on. Even Beal’s fifth personal foul was suspect as it was a late whistle and an offensive foul call against him after he had already passed the ball away. DeRozan’s 12 first quarter free throw attempts was also mind-boggling. In the end, the psychology of the officials believing they may have made a lapse in judgment call could have played in Washington’s favor as there were multiple plays that could have been whistled a foul against the Wizards but were not.
“When they initially called me for my sixth I was beyond emotional, beyond mad, frustrated,” Beal expressed. “Pretty much any synonym you could add on that list. I honestly thought they were going to kick me out of the game I was so mad.”
Next Game: Washington will fly to Toronto on Tuesday before their Game 5 matchup on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on NBA TV.