Down 2-0, the Washington Wizards responded with a physical performance that led to a 122-103 win over the Toronto Raptors. Bradley Beal summed it up perfectly after the game in regards to Washington's fight.''We came out tonight with an edge about ourselves.'' Bradley and his backcourt mate John Wall scored 28 points a piece as the Wizards got on the board in the series, it's now 2-1. Wall added 14 assists and Washington's All Star backcourt won the matchup with their Toronto counterparts, outscoring Lowry and DeRozan 56 to 42.
"We just have to defend, you have to defend every possession. It’s pretty simple, you just have to play hard with maximum effort on every possession.” - Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks
The physicality that was evident by the Raptors in Games 1 & 2 was lacking, Washington took the fight to them and Toronto was the team that look to worry more about missed calls. As is expected this time of year or in playoff basketball as a whole, this game was the first in which both teams made it clear they have a true disdain for eachother. Markieff Morris and OG Anunoby got into a shoving match nearly two minutes in, twice in the third quarter the teams were at odds shoving and jawing back and forth. It was Washington that kept their heads about them, moving past the non-basketball activities and focusing on their play.
"They punched us and now we have to go back and regroup and make some adjustments, and understand the level of toughness you have to play with to be successful in the playoffs.” - Toronto Head Coach Dwayne Casey
Toronto got out to a quick lead in the first period, but Washington rallied to take a one point lead. It was back and forth affair for most of the first half, seven lead changes and both teams had held double-digit leads by that point. No one could quite pull away, but a late six point flurry from Wall helped Washington lead 69-61 at the break.
Beal had 12 points in the first quarter and followed it up with another nine in the second, he led all scorers with 21 at halftime. Wall was right on his heels, his 13 points in the second quarter gave him 19 at the break. DeRozan and Valanciunas led Toronto with 14 and 12 points respectively. Both teams shot over 50%, but Toronto's issues were their 13 turnovers that led to 22 Washington points.
The Wizards took control of the game in the third quarter. Fueled by their defense, Washington outscored the Raptors 32-21 in the period. The starting five played most of the quarter for the Wizards, every single one of them scored at least one basket. While Beal went cold, Marcin Gortat started scoring off those runs to the rim. Wall was in full maestro mode, pulling every single string just right in screen/rolls as he picked apart the Raptors defense. The Wizards pushed the lead to 22 at one point and Ty Lawson hit a triple as time expired to give Washington a 101-82 lead at the end of three.
The closest the Raptors got in the fourth period was when Lowry hit his fifth three pointer of the night, cutting Toronto's deficit to 13. Scott Brooks chose to go small with about seven minutes left in the game and it paid off. Mike Scott was the center in a lineup with Kelly Oubre, Otto Porter, Beal, and Wall. Scott scored seven of his 12 points in the period, helping Washington trade baskets and secure the win.
Game 4 is Sunday at 6pm Eastern at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
Foul Trouble. Both Markieff Morris and Ian Mahinmi picked up fouls at a rapid rate in this one. That's a large reason that Morris played just 18 minutes, just six of those minutes came in the first half. Both of them were productive in their roles, but they couldn't stay on the floor. The worst part is they were committing silly fouls.
Defense. The Wizards have been wildly inconsistent this year, one of the few things that has rang true is when they play defense, they're a good team. Last night against Toronto, the Wizards played with an edge and were extremely physical with Raptors players when guarding the ball. Washington didn't shy away from contact and it paid off, there also seemed to be a better attention to detail. Outside of Morris and Mahinmi, the Wizards players did a good job staying down on fakes and switching. They can do better with their closeouts though, they were so focused on taking away or running Raptors players off the three point line that their wild closeouts sometimes led to open shots for Toronto.
Wall. He was very aggressive on both ends of the floor, he was fighting through screens on the defensive end which played a role in keeping Toronto's offense off schedule. On the offensive end, he showed why he's one of the league's best floor generals. In the second quarter he went full Mark Jackson and operated out of the post, the first three times he was facilitating. Two of his assists out of the post led to three pointers and the second was for an easy lay in at the rim. On the fourth time in the post, he looked off the help before spinning baseline and hitting a floater off the glass. The Raptors didn't have an answer for it and the Wizards should make a habit of getting Wall in the post against Lowry a few times each game going forward. John was also in full control in nearly every pick-and-roll situation, manipulating the Toronto defense to make plays for his teammates time and time again.
Lastly, he never stopped putting pressure on the defense and his midrange jumper was falling which certainly didn't make things easy on the Raptors.
Beal. He came off a historically poor performance from a franchise standpoint in Game 2 and responded with a 28 point outing on 10-of-19 shooting. One of the keys to his success was that he didn't waste time dancing with the ball(this got him in trouble during the regular season), instead being efficient with his dribble by getting to his spots and shooting. This was the 16th time in his playoff career that he's scored 25 plus points and Washington needed all of them. Another reason he was successful was that he didn't just settle for shots, he was the aggressor whether that meant attacking off the bounce or fighting through contact to run his man off screens.
Bench. The Wizards got great minutes from both Mike Scott and Kelly Oubre Jr. The duo scored 24 of Washington's 35 bench points and they were active on defense, especially Kelly. He played one of his best games of the season on that end of the floor, using his length to disrupt several Toronto possessions. Scott played 28 minutes due to Markieff being in foul trouble, but he was very impactful in his time on the floor. He played some small-ball five (center) and that lineup really put stress on the Raptors on both ends of the floor. Scott did a good job of finding open spaces on the offensive end and he shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor, including two three pointers. Ty Lawson had five points and four rebounds in his 15 minutes on the floor, he did a great job of keeping the pace that John set with the starters when he was on the floor without Wall. Whether it was off a make or miss, he was looking to advance the ball upcourt as quick as possible. He gives the second unit a different feel because he can facilitate or get his own whenever needed.