Wizards Starters Bench

The Wizards and Their Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Season… Thus Far

On Friday, Nov. 2, I witnessed the Washington Wizards’ insufficient, feeble efforts during a 134-111 loss at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Wizards began their matchup against the Thunder on level footing, scoring 30 points in the first quarter to Oklahoma City’s 35. With Dwight Howard appearing in his debut as a Wizard and playing for the first time since April 10, there was reason to attend this noteworthy contest.

Howard contributed 13 points in the first quarter, including two dunks and an alley-oop on an assist from Markieff Morris. The crowd was excited for the former Charlotte Hornet’s first game of the season.

When Howard was replaced in the game with French center Ian Mahinmi, Washington’s lack of depth became manifest. The score was 30-30 in favor of OKC when all starters, except for point guard John Wall, were substituted for reserves.

At the conclusion of the first period, the Wizards trailed by five points. Wiz coach Scott Brooks allowed the team’s substitutes to play on until nearly the 9 minute mark of the second quarter. In that time, the team scored zero points, while the Thunder put up nine.

At this point, the Wizards’ deficit was 14, still a manageable deficit. Oklahoma City poured in a quarter-high 44 points in that period. How did the Washington Wizards do?

As a team, they only put up 20 points in 12 minutes. So at halftime, the Wizards now had a 29-point deficit.

The rest of the matchup was no contest, with the Thunder completing a blowout win on the strength of Russell Westbrook’s 23 points and 12 assists and Jerami Grant’s 22 points and four rebounds. The Wizards lost their seventh game of the season, with one win on their season record coming against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Even worse, following the Thunder game, the Wizards have recorded just their second win of the season over the course of three games. The Wiz lost two straight games against teams with a sub-.500 record, with their only victory coming against the New York Knicks, 108-95.

Please let me clarify that I am a fan of the Washington Wizards, and I will continue to be a fan of the team, barring how the remainder of the season goes. However, I am rather displeased with how the Wizards’ have progressed, or rather degressed, during this dreadful start.

After making the playoffs two consecutive seasons, it looks like that streak might not continue with this year’s team. Rumors of issues in the Wizards’ locker room have plagued the team, an article summarized the team’s “comical fail” to inbound the ball twice in one minute and just today, speculative fodder in the form of an SB Nation blog post discussed trading Wall to another team, ranking the 29 possible options in order of feasability.

No one outside of the team and its front office can rightfully direct the blame for the Wizards’ 2-9 record to any specific player or individual. But what I can do is demand better from the team I support and hope for the managment to make judicious decisions that will benefit the squad.

Before the start of this season, I wrote a post describing Washington’s new additions and what each can contribute to the team. My thoughts were that the Wizards had become a deeper, stronger squad compared to a year prior.

However, few of the Wizards’ new players have made significant defensive efforts and the team continues to rely heavily on the contributions of Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal.

In the game against Oklahoma City, the Wizards’ reserves poured in a total of 32 points. The team scored 111 during that contest. In their most recent matchup against the Orlando Magic, Washington’s substitutes scored 35 of a team total 108 points, in a loss.

With former Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Jimmy Butler heading to the Philadephia 76ers, and the Toronto Raptors dominating the Eastern Conference with an 11-1 record, I have doubt that the Wizards, at 2-9, will redeem themselves during the rest of the season.

As a fan, I certainly hope that the team will prove me wrong. But, that remains to be seen.

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Wizards Preseason GIF

Wizards’ Reserves Demonstrate Improvements During Preseason

Wizards Preseason GIF

A GIF showing Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ian Mahinmi, Otto Porter and Bradley Beal in action during the 2018 preseason. (Photo Credits: Pictures 1, 3-5 – Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images; Pic. 2 – Brad Mills/USA Today Sports; Pic. 6 – Will Newton/Getty Images)

Defense and depth have historically prevented the Washington Wizards from being considered legitimate Eastern Conference contenders. Last season, the Wizards conceded an average of 106 opponent points per game, placing them 15th in the league for this measurement.

Though Washington ranked ninth in the NBA for average opponent field goals attempted last year, allowing over 84 per game, the Wizards also ranked 15th in opponent field-goal percentage with 46.2 percent.

The Wiz also ended the season near the bottom of the league in opponent points per shot, coming in at 23rd with 1.26 points per shot. Comparatively, the team was ranked at the same level in this stat last season as the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks. Both the Hawks and Mavericks had a 24-58 record in 2017-2018.

Regarding the team’s roster depth, only one reserve averaged more than 10 points per game last season: Kelly Oubre Jr. (11.8 ppg), who is entering his fourth season as a Wizard. Small forward Mike Scott had the next-highest scoring average for a substitute, 8.8 ppg.

I mention these statistics from a season prior to provide context for differences I see between last year’s Wizards and the current team thus far. Washington arguably has their deepest squad of the John Wall-Bradley Beal era, adding versatile guard Austin Rivers, reliable forward Jeff Green, “athletic big” Dwight Howard and 2018 NBA Draft selection Troy Brown Jr. I discussed the abilities and skills each of these players can bring to the Wiz in my last post.

The most important factor for teams seeking to thrive in a competitive league is balance on their rosters. The Wizards have attempted to address this requisite by not only acquiring these additions, but also holding on to most of their key bench players from last season.

Judging by Washington’s two preseason games, the team’s bench improved over the offseason and might be able to hold their own in 2018-2019. Wizards Coach Scott Brooks played the second and third units for most of the team’s first matchup against the New York Knicks. Substitutes scored 81 of Washington’s 121 points in a narrow, overtime loss, including a game-high 15-point offensive performance by Oubre.

In last night’s win against the Miami Heat, several Wiz reserves made significant contributions, especially Green, who went three-for-four from three-point range. Oubre also had 11 points against Miami, scoring four of his five attempts. The starters received more ample playing time, pouring in 64 of the Wizards’ 121 points.

With Howard possibly missing the preseason due to treatment for back soreness, the Wizards’ substitute center, Frenchman Ian Mahinmi, has had time to shine. Mahinmi has done just that, displaying his rebounding, defensive skill and… his three-point shooting?

This three-pointer was Mahinmi’s first made trey during a game in his career. That deserves some recognition, as do Mahinmi’s defensive efforts and free-throw shooting ahead of the regular season.

In 18 minutes of playing time against the Knicks, the 6’11” center collected seven rebounds, including three offensive rebounds, made a steal, blocked one shot and recorded an assist. During Mahinmi’s 24 minutes against Miami, he gathered four rebounds, stole two passes and made two blocks, all while committing just two personal fouls. Mahinmi has frequently gotten into foul trouble during his two seasons with the Wizards.

Another area of steady improvement has been Mahinmi’s free-throw accuracy. Mahinmi’s first full season with the Wiz saw him make just over 57 percent of his free-throw shots. In ’17-’18, he boosted his free-throw percentage to 70.3 percent, according to BasketballReference.com.

Against New York, Mahinmi made three of his four free throws, and in the Wizards’ most recent game, he went 100 percent from the line (five-for-five). As a fan, Mahinmi enhancing his game at the free-throw line is something I like to see.

Mahinmi played the same number of minutes as Wall last night, scoring 11 points and finishing with a respectable +17 plus-minus differential, the highest of any Wizard that entered the game.

Two other players who deserve attention for their refined games are Oubre and Tomas Satoransky. Oubre has gotten better each year since his rookie season and has shown a strong desire to advance his play.

The 6’7″ Kansas alum posted averages of 3.7 ppg, 2.1 rebounds, 0.3 steals and 0.2 rebounds per contest during his rookie season. Last year, Oubre recorded nearly 12 points, 4.5 rebounds, over one assist and exactly one steal on average.

Oubre has played more than 23 minutes in the Wizards’ two preseason matchups, averaging 13 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. With the regular season starting in 11 days, I hope that he will find ways to build on these numbers.

Two areas Oubre must improve on are shot selection and keeping possession of the ball. Of the 14 shots he attempted against the Knicks, Oubre only hit five. In the second game he boosted this number, missing only one three-point attempt and going four-for-five overall.

Oubre also turned over the ball three times against New York and four times against Miami. If the Wizards’ reserves are to be competitive in the East, Oubre and the rest of the team must limit their amount of turnovers.

Entering his third season in Washington, Polish shooting guard Tomas “Sato” Satoransky has been an underrated contributor to the Wizards during the preseason. Satoransky scored 12 points against the Knicks on an efficient four made field goals. He also went four-for-four from the line, grabbed four rebounds, and made three assists with no turnovers.

Satoransky did not fare as well against the Heat scoring-wise, contributing five points, but he found other ways to help the Wizards earn a win. Satoransky gathered five rebounds, dished out four assists, and hit a three-point shot.

Though Satoransky is a capable player, who can always find a way to contribute, consistency is essential for him this season. Satoransky has shown his skill with scoring and his ability to distribute the ball on many occassions. I hope he can hit his stride in ’18-’19.

The Wizards play New York again this Monday at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m.

2018 Wizards New Additions

Changed Team, Same Goal: What Wizards’ Additions Can Contribute

2018 Wizards New Additions

A GIF combining pictures of the Washington Wizards’ additions ahead of the 2018-2019 NBA regular season. (Photo Credits: Joe Buglewicz/Washington Post; Casey Sapio/USA Today Sports; Devin Roux/Daily Emerald; Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images; Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images; Brett Davis/USA Today Sports; Sam Sharpe/USA Today Sports; Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images; Brad Mills/USA Today Sports; Kelvin Kuo/USA Today Sports; Steve Dykes/AP Photo; Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

It’s fair to say the Washington Wizards did not achieve the same success last season that they had seen a year prior. The Toronto Raptors eliminated the Wizards in six games in the first round of the 2018 postseason, following an eighth-placed conference finish by Washington.

Reports of “problems in the locker room” and “fair-weather Wizards” were confirmed after the 2017-2018 season in a press conference with the team’s floor general, John Wall. Wall’s statements hinted at speculation that he and former Wiz center Marcin Gortat had tension off the court, a rumor sparked by a tweet Gortat made midway through last season.

The “Wall Star” analyzed issues that had impeded Washington’s success and requested for the Wizards’ management to deepen the team’s roster over the offseason.

“I think the way the league is going, you need athletic bigs, you need scoring off the bench, you need all of those types of things,” Wall said in an extended interview with media. “We don’t really have an athletic big.

“We got this summer that’s really an opportunity to try to make more switches, then make it a deeper team and a stronger team.”

After an underwhelming playoff performance, in which Washington was outplayed by a deeper, more versatile Raptors squad, the Wizards’ front office took steps forward to fulfill Wall’s request. The team’s General Manager Ernie Grunfeld made new additions that create a revamped, well-rounded Washington team.

It’s time to meet each new player on the team and discuss the abilities and skills they can contribute.

Rookie Ambitions: Washington Selects Troy Brown Jr.

In their first acquisition of the 2018 offseason, the Wizards drafted former-Oregon freshman and guard-forward Troy Brown Jr. with their 15th pick in the the NBA Draft.

The 6’7″ Las Vegas-native, who played at forward for the Oregon Ducks, helped the squad tie for a sixth-placed finish in a Pac-12 conference crowded with talent. Brown played in and started 35 of Oregon’s games last year, missing just one matchup.

Brown did well during his only college season, averaging over 11 points, more than six rebounds, greater than three assists and 1.6 steals per contest. He also played a pivotal role for Oregon, averaging the second-highest number of minutes on the team (31.2 minutes) and the highest two-point shooting accuracy (52.4 percent), according to SportsReference.com.

Brown and the Ducks reached conference-tournament play, but Oregon was eliminated from NCAA Tournament contention after bowing out 74-54 to Southern California. Brown did play in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), helping Oregon defeat Rider University before being beat by Marquette.

Brown was ranked 12th at the end of the season on the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI), which represents a player’s final standing within their high school class in a given year. Following a successful season with Oregon, Brown was selected by Ernie Grunfeld and Washington’s front office to become a Wizard.

So what can Brown contribute to the Wiz? Besides Brown displaying ability to get to the line in college, making 105 free-throw attempts, he also showed defensive intensity, something the Wizards have needed as a team for some time.

Brown made over 50 steals with Oregon and grabbed 164 defensive rebounds. He also committed a relatively little amount of personal fouls, 78, averaging just over two per game.

While Brown must improve his field-goal shooting accuracy (44.4 percent in college), namely his three-point accuracy (29 percent with Oregon), he was consistent at the line with the Ducks, making over 74 percent of his attempts.

When the Wizards played their first preseason game against the New York Knicks on Oct. 1, Brown hit two two-point baskets, including a circus shot in overtime. However, he did not score on any of his three three-point attempts, or his one free-throw shot, areas that are key for players to succeed.

Brown did contribute in other ways, though, grabbing seven defensive rebounds and dishing out one assist. Tonight in the Wizards’ preseason game against the Miami Heat, Brown did not receive ample time to contribute, playing just five minutes and recording no points and one assist.

In With Austin, Out with Marcin

Almost two months after the Raptors eliminated the Wizards, the team’s front office decided to trade Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers. In return, the Wiz acquired versatile guard Austin Rivers, who has played at both the 1 (point guard) and 2 (shooting guard) positions during his six seasons in the league.

The 6’4″ combination guard averaged single-season career highs of 15 points, four assists and over two rebounds per game last year. Rivers started 59 games, his most of any season, and played an average of 33.7 minutes per contest, according to BasketballReference.com.

Despite missing 21 games due to a right Achilles injury and concussion, Rivers finished ’17-’18 with his highest single-season averages for three-point shooting percentage (37.8 percent) and steals (1.2). Despite decreases in Rivers’ two-point accuracy (down 30 percent from the year prior) and free-throw shooting average (around 64 percent for the season), he took on a more significant role for the short-handed Clippers squad led by his father, Doc Rivers.

Now that Gortat is gone, what can the addition of Rivers bring to the team? For one, the 25-year-old is able to contribute a keen eye for assists and a stingy defensive presence.

Rivers might also help Washington keep better control of the ball. The Wizards averaged 14.6 turnovers last season, the 18th-most in the league, according to NBA.com. This is an area where the Wiz must improve.

Although Rivers recorded the highest turnover rate of his career, 1.8, he also played his greatest number of minutes during a season. Wall averaged slightly more playing time than Rivers, 34.4 minutes per game in 41 matchups, but committed 3.9 turnovers per contest, over double as many as Rivers.

Washington’s bench was in need of depth, lacking guards who could distribute the ball as effectively and adeptly as Wall. With Rivers, the team may have found just that.

In the Wizards’ first preseason matchup, Rivers played 22 minutes, converting three mid-range shots and scoring one of two free throws. He also collected three rebounds, made three assists and recorded a steal, while making zero turnovers during his playing time.

In 21 minutes against the Heat tonight, Rivers scored five points, including one three-pointer, on eight total attempts. He also made two defensive rebounds, three assists and one steal during the game. The Wizards pulled away down the stretch to win 121-114.

While it is too early to tell if Rivers can make a substantial impact on the Wiz, his game may help boost the bench, and he might be an appropriate backup for Wall.

“Superman” Comes To Play In The District

During the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, all-star center Dwight Howard lit up New Orleans by performing this feat:

Thus providing an explanation for this subhed. Over his 14 seasons in the league, Howard has averaged a double-double in points and rebounds each year, including his last season with the Charlotte Hornets, and been voted an all-star eight times from 2007 through 2014.

Despite the Hornets failing to reach the playoffs in ’17-’18, Howard had an impressive year, averaging over 16 points, 12.5 rebounds and more than one block and one assist per game. The 6’11” Atlanta big man played in all but one game last season, averaging greater than 30 minutes per matchup.

Though Howard is in the middle stage of his career, he is still a reliable player and capable of being an offensive threat. He can still be on-target, converting over 55 percent of his two-point attempts and 57.4 percent of his free throws on average with Charlotte.

Howard certainly can contribute a dominant presence in the paint and on the offensive boards. Fans will not want to miss the opportunity to see him connect on Beal or Wall’s lobs.

Though it has been a while since Howard last gelled with a team, the potential benefits he might bring to the Wizards during his two-year deal in D.C. could be substantial. If Howard succeeds with the Wiz, he would prove his value to the Brooklyn Nets, who have a contract buyout with him, and other squads seeking to sign him later in his career.

Jeff Green Returns Home

Ten-season veteran of the league and Georgetown University alum Jeff Green is coming back to his home region to play. Green signed with the Wizards on July 10 after completing a one-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Despite reaching the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers were swept in four games by a more talented Golden State Warriors squad. The 6’9″ power forward played a key role for Cleveland’s reserves last season, contributing nearly 11 points, 3.2 rebounds and over one assist per matchup.

Green averaged 23 minutes of playing time per contest and made an average of 54 percent of his two-pointers, the highest percentage of any season during his career. He also scored an average of 86.8 percent of his free-throw attempts.

Green will bring his abilties to create offense off the dribble, drain free throws and grab defensive boards to the Wizards. In 23 minutes against the Knicks, Green scored eight points, including two free throws, gathered two defensive rebounds and made an assist and a block.

Earlier tonight, Green provided a spark off the bench for the Wizards, scoring 15 points on five-for-seven shooting, making both of his free throws and contributing three rebounds.

If Washington is to consider bringing on Green for longer than one season, he must improve his three-point accuracy this year. Green attempted an average of only 2.2 three-pointers last season, converting just 31 percent of them (less than one on average). Tonight against the Heat, Green connected on three of his four three-point attempts.

Green is still very much capable of making plays, like this one against Ian Mahinimi before the beginning of last season:

“No Limit TB” Looks To Shine In D.C.

The last recent addition to the Wizards is Thomas Bryant, a 21-year-old prospect and former-Los Angeles Laker. Bryant was waived by the Lakers and claimed by Washington on July 2.

Bryant has a relatively fresh start in the NBA because the Lakers assigned him to their G-League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers, for most of the time he spent with them. Bryant signed a multi-year contract with L.A. on July 30, 2017, but he was assigned to the G-League shortly after the season started.

Here is a sample of the work Bryant put in during a Nov. 8, 2017 G-League game, in which he scored 30 points:

Though Bryant was recalled from South Bay to play with the Los Angeles Lakers for 15 games in ’17-’18, he averaged more than 10 minutes of playing time in only one of these contests.

It is not fair to gauge Bryant’s ability to contribute by reviewing the statistics from the limited number of NBA games he played last year. So instead, I am deciding to highlight stats from his season in the G-League.

In 37 contests, 35 of which he started, the 6’11” Indiana University alum averaged nearly 20 points, 7.4 rebounds, over two assists and more than one block per game. Additionally, Bryant scored an average of 59.5 percent of his attempted shots, including close to two converted three-pointers each matchup.

While the NBA clearly is different from the G-League, these numbers for a young player are solid. During the 2018 Summer League, Bryant averaged just over 15 points, nearly nine rebounds and two blocks per contest, and converted 59 percent of his attempted shots.

Tonight, Bryant made the most of his six minutes of playing time. He scored six points on three two-point attempts, including a dunk in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, and collected two defensive rebounds.

While he has room to sculpt his playing style and grow comfortable as a contributor, Bryant has demonstrated his ability to make shots, space the floor and protect the rim. Having a talented, young player who the Wizards can help teach and improve is advantageous for Washington.

2018 NBA Playoffs Game 1

In Wizards’ 114-106 Defeat to Raptors, Bench Production, Three-Point Defense, Late-Game Execution Remain Problematic

2018 NBA Playoffs Game 1

Various Washington Wizards players are pictured in action, during Game 1 of a first-round playoff series between the Wizards and the Toronto Raptors on April 14, 2018. (Photo Credits: Pictures 1-4, 7 and 8, 10 – Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP; Pic. 5 – Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images; Pic. 6 – Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP; Pic. 9 – John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

In a closely contested game Saturday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre, the Washington Wizards fell by eight points to the Toronto Raptors to begin their 2018 postseason.

The balanced matchup was highlighted by John Wall’s fluid ball movement and three-point accuracy, Raptors forwards C.J. Miles and Serge Ibaka lighting it up from three, forward Markieff Morris’ toughness in the paint, the dominance of Toronto’s second unit, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry having a strong second half, and both Mike Scott and Marcin Gortat making solid contributions.

Positive Takeaways from Game 1:

As the game summary at the bottom of this post discusses, the Wizards did an excellent job of defending the Raptors’ starting backcourt. In the first half, Washington limited DeRozan and Lowry to just seven points combined scoring, while Beal and Wall put up 22 points together.

These numbers would shift in the second half, though, as DeRozan and Lowry finished the game with a combined 28 points, 15 assists, and five rebounds. Comparatively, Wall and Beal combined for 42 points (nearly 40 percent of the Wizards’ scoring), 19 assists (a cool 15 for Wall), seven steals, and five rebounds.

For the Wizards to even the series today and have a shot at winning against the Raptors, Beal and Wall must involve Washington’s bench and bigs in scoring and contesting on the glass. The Wizards’ backcourt is not solely enough to challenge Toronto.

While the Game 1 performances of Wall and Beal are most noticeable, the Wizards were able to contest the Raptors throughout the game because of key contributions from Morris, Gortat, and Scott.

Morris was the most consistent and reliable Wizard. During Game 1, the 6’10” forward dominated the paint, connecting on a number of mid-range jump shots. He also helped the Wizards secure rebounds and distribute the ball to create scoring opportunities for players.

Morris finished with 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting (8-for-11 on two-point field goals), 11 rebounds, and six assists. Morris also shot perfectly (3-for-3) on his free-throw attempts. He was clearly a difference-maker for the Wizards, as he was only one of five players to score in double figures.

Two of the other five Wizards to score in double digits were Gortat and Scott. Gortat, affectionately called the “Polish Hammer,” converted several hook and jump shots in the paint. Gortat also assisted the Wizards in controlling the glass early on. He finished with 12 points on 6-for-9 field-goal shooting, and six rebounds. Unfortunately, Gortat picked up two quick fouls at the start of Game 1. He played the fewest number of minutes of any Washington starter (28 minutes).

Scott propelled Washington’s bench, as he was the only player on the Wizards’ second unit to score more than three points. Scott contributed solidly on the glass, collecting one defensive and two offensive rebounds. He also had a couple of highlight plays, scoring a reverse layup and making three dunks.

Unfortunately, Scott did not have any difference-making plays for the Wizards late in the game. He was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul early in the fourth quarter, and was replaced by Morris after committing a turnover. Still, Scott finished the game with 14 points in 26 minutes on 7-for-10 shooting. In addition, he was the only other Wizard aside from Wall to have a positive plus-minus rating (+6).

Room to Improve:

In the second half, the offensive production of Toronto’s guards and second unit proved too much for the Wizards to handle. DeRozan and Lowry ran the Raptors’ offense, racking up six and nine assists respectively. Lowry’s backup, point guard Delon Wright, finished the game with four assists.

However, the Raptors’ two chief offensive distributors and scorers did not need to play their best for Toronto to secure a win. The Raptors’ precision three-point shooting and big minutes from their subsitute players guranteed a win.

For Washington to successfully contest the Raptors, they must cut off the three-point line to the best of their ability and receive strong performances from their bench players. The Wizards were unable to contest Toronto’s threes and had only one reserve score in double figures (Mike Scott). These factors must change in Game 2.

Toronto made just over half of their three-pointers (16-of-30), spurred by excellent shooting performances by Raptors power forward Serge Ibaka and small forward C.J. Miles. Ibaka went 3-for-4 (75 percent) from three, scoring important points down the stretch. Meanwhile, Miles connected on four of seven three-pointers.

However, it was not just these two players who lit it up from three-point land. Seven of 11 Raptors who played in Game 1 scored at least one three-pointer. Five of these seven players connected on at least two three-point shots.

By comparison, the Wizards made 21 three-point attempts as a team in Game 1, converting just eight of them. Only two players (Beal and Wall), made more than one three-point shot for Washington.

Despite being without guard Fred VanVleet for Game 1, who has been a significant contributor to the Raptors’ reserves, the “Bench Mob” thrived at home. The Raptors’ second unit scored 42 points, including 18 points made by Wright and 12 by Miles.

Contributions from Washington’s bench were not comparable. Of the Wizards’ five reserves who played, Ian Mahinmi scored just two points, small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. connected on just one of his four shots, Wall’s backup Tomas Satoransky finished with two points from free throws and one assist, and reserve point guard Tim Frazier dished out one assist.

Scott was the only Wizard who played well off the bench, going 7-for-10 on his two-point attempts and making three rebounds. The Wizards’ second unit will have to play better as a collective if they seek to win this series.

Game Summary:

For the majority of Game 1, the Wizards showed grit in challenging the top-seeded Raptors. At the end of the first quarter, Washington trailed Toronto 28-23, after being down as many as 10 points. Following an 11-2 run, the Wizards gained a one-point lead over the Raptors midway through the second period, their first lead of the game.

The Raptors responded with a scoring run of their own, capped by a three-pointer made by power forward Serge Ibaka to even the score at 48. The Wiz were able to keep control of the game, heading to halftime with a 59-55 lead.

In the second half, the Raptors’ starting backcourt of DeRozan and Lowry took charge for Toronto. Both players struggled in the first period, with DeRozan scoring just five points and only one layup falling for Lowry.

DeRozan made a jump shot early in the third quarter, followed by a three-point shot moments later, placing Toronto in the lead once again. Beal fired back with a jump shot that banked in. However, Ibaka connected on a three-pointer, increasing his scoring total to 17 points. Following a missed three-point shot by Wizards forward Markieff Morris, Lowry gathered the rebound and made a three-point field goal at the other end, prompting a Washington time out.

Halfway through the third period, Wall tied the game again, after the Wizards were down as many as five points. Wall’s made three-pointer knotted the game at 70, giving Morris his fifth assist and bringing Wall’s total to 16 points.

From this point until midway through the fourth quarter, the score remained close. At the end of the third quarter, Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky had an opportunity to give the visiting team a lead, but he was blocked on his three-point attempt. Washington was behind by one point (86-85 Raptors) at the conclusion of the third period.

In the final quarter of Game 1, Washington and Toronto continued to trade blows. The Wizards had a three-point advantage in the early minutes of the quarter, but that lead was soon diminished. A flagrant foul was called on Wizards power forward Mike Scott, resulting in two made Lowry free throws and possession to the Raptors.

Toronto maximized their offensive possession, with Lowry making an assist to Raptors substitute guard Delon Wright, who drove to the basket for a reverse layup. Shortly after, another member of the Raptors’ second unit, forward C.J. Miles, scored his third three-pointer of the game.

Wizards small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. followed up with a timely three, scoring his first points of the game. Oubre’s shot put the Wiz within one point with just over nine minutes left.

Two consecutive Wizards turnovers resulted in five made points by Wright. Wall missed a pullup jumper, but Toronto substitute power forward Pascal Siakam missed a three-point attempt at the other end as well. Oubre grabbed the defensive rebound of Siakam’s missed shot, but also turned the ball over to Wright. Raptors center Lucas Nogueira passed the ball to Miles, who made his fourth three. The game was starting to get away from the Wizards.

Nearly four minutes elapsed during the quarter without Washington scoring. During that time, Toronto added 10 points to their total, including two three-point shots. With under five minutes remaining in the game, the score was 105-97 in the Raptors’ favor.

The Wizards, specifically Beal and Wall, made valiant efforts with time winding down to try to even the score. Beal made a layup with over three minutes left to diminish the deficit to 10. Wall made two free throws, and stole the ball away twice from the Raptors, giving Washington a chance.

Unfortunately, Wall’s next jump shot and Beal’s following three-point opportunity both did not fall. Ibaka’s layup went in, raising the Wizards’ deficit once more to 10 points with 1 minutes and 42 seconds remaining.

The Wizards cut the Raptors’ lead to seven. However, the Wizards’ necessity to foul Toronto in order to prevent the Raptors from taking time off the clock made Washington’s deficit insurmountable. The Raptors went on to win 114-106.

Washington Wizards Toronto Raptors 2018 Playoffs

2018 NBA Playoff Picture: Wizards Prepare for Second Postseason Matchup Against Toronto

Washington Wizards Toronto Raptors 2018 Playoffs

With the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors set to square off in a first-round NBA playoff series, here is a GIF picturing various Wizards players in games against the Raptors this season. (Photo Credits In Order: Picture 1 – Frank Gunn/AP Photo; Pic. 2 – Brad Mills/USA Today Sports; Pic. 3 – Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images; Pic. 4 – Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images; Pic. 5 – Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images; Pic. 6 – Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images; Pic. 7 – Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP Photo; Pic. 8 – Alex Brandon/AP Photo; Pic. 9 – Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

After a season that saw Bradley Beal get recognized as an all-star, Tomas Satoransky take on leadership in John Wall’s absence, Mike Scott become a reliable contributor to the second unit, Markieff Morris build on his three-point accuracy, and Kelly Oubre Jr. steadily improve, the Washington Wizards will return to the NBA Playoffs for the fourth time in the past five years.

The Road Thus Far:

The Wizards, who finished with 43 wins on the season, were without Wall, a critical player to their success, for a large portion of the year. Wall played in exactly half of the Wizards’ games during the 2017-2018 season (41 of 82 games). Wall most notably missed 26 matchups, just over two months, while recovering from knee surgery.

The Wizards demonstrated resiliency in the absence of one of their star players. From January 27 to February 27, 2018, Washington won 10 of 13 matchups, including victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, and Philadelphia 76ers, all teams that made the 2018 postseason. Other notable games during this streak of success included a 110-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers and a 22-point comeback victory over the New York Knicks.

Good things eventually reach an end, however. After winning on the road in Milwaukee, the Wizards faced a challenging schedule, consecutively playing 11 teams with records above .500, while trying to stay competitive in the playoff race. The Wiz lost three consecutive games at home against the Golden State Warriors, Raptors, and Pacers by close margins, before achieving two wins against the Miami Heat and New Orleans Pelicans.

After winning by nearly 20 points over the Pelicans on the road, the Wall-less Wizards recorded two straight losses, including a 27-point defeat to the Heat away from Capital One Arena. The Wiz had an opportunity to turn around their inconsistency by earning a W against former playoff rival and one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics. After a scrappy, one-point win in double-overtime at TD Garden, it appeared the Wizards were capable of righting the ship.

In their next game, Washington gained a seven-point win over Indiana, facing their star player, Victor Oladipo, who had scored 33 points in the prior matchup between both teams. However, the Wiz went on to lose three of their next five games, including two losses the weekend that they honored NBA Champion Phil Chenier and the 1978 Washington Bullets championship team.

Following wins in 10 of 13 games, the Wizards won just 5 of their 14 matchups between February 28 and March 29, 2018, culminating in a 103-92 loss to the Detroit Pistons, who would miss the playoffs.

The Wizards won two of the four games Wall played after recovering from his surgery, winning against the Charlotte Hornets and the Celtics. In the games he was part of, Wall averaged over 20 points, four rebounds, and 12 assists per game, as well as two steals per matchup.

In the three matchups Wall missed since his first game back, the Wizards lost all by six points or greater. These losses were difficult for fans to comprehend, as the Wizards fell to the lottery-bound Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, and Orlando Magic.

Washington went on to finish eighth in their conference, picking up the last playoff spot in the East. During a season in which the Wizards demonstrated inconsistency and struggles with late-game execution, the team will face the Raptors in the postseason, who finished with a franchise-record 59 wins. Toronto’s formidable backcourt and bench depth will leave Washington with little room for error.

A Game Between Guards:

Both the Raptors and Wizards have benefitted from superior performances by their main shooting guards this season.

En route to his first all-star appearance, Bradley Beal scored a single-game career high of 51 points, in a 106-92 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on December 5, 2017. Beal finished the regular season averaging over 22 points, four rebounds, and four assists per game. In addition, he played and started in every game, the only Wizard to do so this season.

In the north, Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan clearly showed the improvements he made during the offseason. DeRozan played and started more games than any other Raptor this season (80 games). Averaging 23 points, nearly four rebounds, and over five assists per game, the Compton, California native grew into Toronto’s go-to player in clutch situations. The 6’7″ guard scored as many as 52 points in a January 2018 matchup against Milwaukee.

While Beal scored an average of 22.6 points while playing just over 36 minutes per game, DeRozan averaged nearly that same number of points in two minutes less playing time per game than Beal.

Beal averaged a 37.5 percent three-point shooting percentage and 46 percent overall field-goal percentage per game this season, and made over 79 percent of his free throw attempts on average.

DeRozan attempted a career-high average of 3.6 three-pointers per game, averaging just over one make per matchup. DeRozan averaged 31 percent accuracy from three-point range this season, his second best benchmark in that category during his career.

In addition, DeRozan averaged a 45.6 percent overall field-goal shooting percentage, attempting about 18 shots per game. His free-throw shooting percentage this season was an average of 82.5 percent on seven free-throw attempts per game. These numbers are down slightly from the previous year, in which DeRozan connected over 84 percent of the time on his 8.7 free throw attempts per game.

Because of these close statistical comparisons, as well as the fact that both of these players’ teams have relied on them to make big shots down the stretch, both Beal and DeRozan will be important to keep an eye on. Beal is 6’5″ and DeRozan 6’7″. This slight difference in height could be advantageous for Toronto.

It is also necessary to note that Wall was absent from all four games of the regular season series between the Wizards and Raptors. With Wall back for the playoffs, the 6’4″ point guard will likely be a significant factor in the Wizards’ ability to truly challenge Toronto.

How the Wizards Match Up:

During the regular season, Washington averaged 106.6 points per game, made over 43 rebounds per game on average, and recorded over 25 assists per game. In addition, the Wizards averaged over 4 blocks and 7.8 steals per game, as well as 14 turnovers per game.

By comparison, Toronto scored an average of 111.7 points per game, posted 44 rebounds per matchup on average, and assisted on over 24 of its made field goals. The Raptors blocked an average of 6 shots per game, averaged 7.6 steals in a matchup, and committed nearly 13 turnovers per game.

Most of these statistics are actually quite comparable. These numbers shift, however, when it comes to three-point accuracy and bench production.

The Wizards attempted over 26 three-pointers per game and made just under 10 of them, good for an average of 37.5 percent per game. Only four players averaged more than two three-point attempts per game, on a roster of 15.

By comparison, the Raptors avearged nearly 12 three-point makes per matchup, on an average of 33 attempts. For Toronto, 14 players averaged at least one three-point attempt per game, on a roster of 18 players. Seven of those players, exactly half, attempted an average of 2.7 or more three-pointers per game.

Regarding bench production, the Wizards averaged 55.6 bench points per game, or just over 5.5. points per substitute. The Raptors averaged 60.1 reserve points per game, measuring up to over five points for each of their 12 substitutes in any given matchup.

Bottom Line:

The Toronto Raptors are a formidable team to face in the postseason, let alone the first round. They have quietly dominated the Eastern Conference throughout the season, and succeeding in this year’s playoffs will establish them as a top team. The Raptors have progressed to the Eastern Conference Finals once in the past four years, where they were eliminated in six games. Considering their success this season, the Raptors reaching the EC Finals does not seem out of the question.

However, the Wizards have proved that they are able to beat Toronto. The Wiz won against the Raptors this season once on the road, and once at home. For Washington to have a chance, they must play selfless, team-first basketball, as they did without Wall, when they coasted to wins in 10 of their 13 games.

Defending the three-point line and limiting the scoring of Toronto’s substitutes are crucial to winning this series. In addition, receiving stellar performances from the Wizards’ backcourt is critical to contesting the Raptors.

Will the Wizards be able to win this series? Comment below with your opinions and thoughts. Enjoy the first game of what will surely be an exciting matchup. Let’s go Wiz!