April 27, 2018 | Capital One Arena | Washington, D.C.
For the first time in the John Wall era, the Washington Wizards have lost in the first round of the playoffs, to the team that they swept three years ago in the Toronto Raptors. Themes that surrounded this team throughout the regular season: injuries, poor finishes, and stagnant offense, ultimately led to the Wizards demise. In a third straight season where expectations were not met, Washington may be officially stuck in NBA purgatory unless they can miraculously address their terrible salary cap situation.
Through the first five games of the series, the Wizards were usually outplayed to begin the game as exemplified by their -28 in the five first quarters. In Game 6, they got off to a fast start that led to a 30-20 lead for the home team after the first 12 minutes of play. Less than five minutes into the game, the Wizards had 20 points and were on pace for 209 points in the game. Washington began the game shooting 7-for-9 from the field, which led to an 18-6 lead that showed that they wanted to go back through customs for a Game 7 on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Wizards, they could not keep up the same level of execution and production in the other three quarters. “It seems like we figured out how to get a better start but it’s always something else,” head coach Scott Brooks summarized the game and overall season perfectly.
Otto Porter Jr.’s Loss Clear
In Game 5, the max money wing clearly seemed out of sorts as he could not stay in front of his man at all on defense as he borderline limped around the court. Porter is probably never going to be the guy that averages 20 points a game, but he does a lot of the intangible effort plays that is the glue to keep Washington together. During the day on Friday, Porter underwent a successful left lower leg fasciotomy for compartment syndrome, which can be considered an emergency surgery to relieve the dangerously high pressure in leg. With that void, Kelly Oubre Jr. was forced into the starting lineup where he continued his slump that has hindered him for the past months. In just 26 minutes of play, Oubre had three points on 1-for-7 shooting, three rebounds, and four personal fouls.
“It is what it is, man. It’s always next man up,” Bradley Beal explained without making excuses. “It was the same thing when John [Wall] went down, the same thing when anybody gets injured or hurt. You can sit there and pout about it, like man we don’t have Otto, but it’s the next man up. It’s the playoffs. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us, nobody is going to say ‘Ok, let’s reschedule it for next week and wait until Otto gets back.’ They aren’t doing that, so it’s always next man up. We got to be confident with who we have, what we have. We gotta be better and continue to do everything, do more on both ends of the floor. If that’s what’s asked of us, we gotta do it.”
More Bad Offense
Outside of the hot start, the Wizards shot just 25-for-70 (35.7 percent) from the field to end the game. In anti-‘Everybody Eats’ fashion, Washington had just 12 assists, their fewest since scoring just 69 points in Utah on December 4. For just the 11th time in team playoff history, the Wizards had more turnovers, 14, than helpers. Take away Beal and Washington was just 2-for-12 (16.7 percent) from beyond the arc as well as 4-for 30 (13.3 percent) from deep over the past two games. Although he was hitting them for a stretch, John Wall’s isolation midrange game is not going to get the job done in the playoffs nor non-catch-and-shoot three-pointers where he pump fakes out of rhythm.
“Twelve assists? That speaks for itself,” Markieff Morris put simply after having a double-double with 12 points and a career playoff-high 15 rebounds.
Toronto’s Bench Mob Too Much
Coming into the season, the Wizards had a clear disadvantage off the bench compared to the Raptors who might be the deepest team in the NBA. They have guys on their second unit that do not play, Norman Powell and Lucas Nogueira, that do not see consistent playing time that would see extended minutes for most teams including Washington. In Games 2 and 3, the Wizards’ bench held their own, but that was far from the case in Game 6. Fred VanVleet returned from his right shoulder injury and showed his worth with five points, four assists, four rebounds and hounding defense in 19 minutes. Pascal Siakam looked like a Sixth Man of the Year candidate with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting and eight rebounds in 22 minutes in a game-high +18 to go along with stellar defense on whoever he was asked to cover. Due to Toronto’s bench success, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry only had to play 33 and 32 minutes, respectively, while Bradley Beal and John Wall had to log 43 and 40 minutes.
“They had a strong play from their bench,” Mike Scott explained. “[Fred] VanVleet, told [Pascal] Siakam he had some game-winning plays. Their bench played good. I think that’s what won them the game. Gave them a little extra little boost. Give credit to them. Even though I’m very stubborn, got to give it to them.”
“They played hard, their bench is really good,” Brooks admitted. “[Fred] VanVleet plays winning basketball. He has a good spirit about him. He didn’t shoot the ball well, but he makes big shots. The three he made. That unit just moves the scoreboard and in that fourth quarter that’s what they did.”
Fourth Quarter Woes Continue
When you only score 14 points in a quarter, things are not going well. When you only score 14 points in the fourth quarter of an elimination game, you can start to clean out your lockers. The Wizards shot a miserable 4-for-16 from the field including a garbage time jumper from Ty Lawson. The fact that Lawson is the guy you turn to off the bench with your season on the line after he was in China just over two weeks ago underscores the pitiful roster construction, but that is another story. After coming into the quarter with a five-point lead, Washington quickly squandered it by allowing Toronto to go on a 29-12 run. With their season on the line, the Wizards wilted and folded in a similar fashion to multiple other occasions throughout the season and last year’s Game 7 in Boston.
“Some of the things that happened in the fourth quarter have been happening throughout the year,” Brooks said. “We just had trouble scoring, making shots, we turned the ball over, we gave up offensive rebounds. They were making shots. We didn’t have a good shooting game, take away that first quarter. In that fourth quarter, I thought it all started with the first play. We had a chance to score in that first play and did not execute the right way. Like I said, give them credit. They played hard, their bench is really good. [Fred] VanVleet plays winning basketball. He has a good spirit about him. He didn’t shoot the ball well, but he makes big shots. The three he made. That unit just moves the scoreboard and in that fourth quarter that’s what they did.”