Tuesday night’s Game 2 debacle offered an answer to the question of, “what would happen if the Toronto Raptors (0-2) played as they did in Game 1 but without the defensive execution?”. The answer wasn’t a pretty one, as the Washington Wizards washed away an early 10-point deficit and proceeded to hammer the Raps the rest of the way with a combination of dominant rebounding, crisp passing and an efficient offensive attack against a lethargic ‘D’ en route to a 117-106 loss.
Plain and simply, there wasn’t much that Toronto could do right on a night where they should have been playing with a desperate energy. Faced with the prospect of heading to Washington down 2-0, they allowed the Wizards to control the game from both the back court and the front court. Starting guards John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 54 points on 20-37 shooting and 19 assists (Wall had 17, two fewer than the Raptors), while Marcin Gortat, Nene and Otto Porter tallied 26 rebounds as part of a commanding 45-28 advantage on the boards.
Led by 20 points apiece from DeMar DeRozan and newly minted Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, the Raps were considerably more offensively potent on Tuesday night than they were on Saturday afternoon. They shot 48.8% (39-80) from the floor, a significant step up from the sub-40% showing they served up in Game 1. Still, it wasn’t nearly enough to offset a Wizards team that seemed to do whatever they wanted, shooting 53.2% (42-79) from the floor and 47.6% (10-21) from three-point range. That offensive attack allowed the Wiz to record two different game-breaking runs, going on a 13-0 charge in the second quarter and an 18-4 run in the third, opening up a lead as large as 22 points.
Now, the series shifts back to Washington with the Raptors desperately searching for answers. Tuesday’s ugly loss can’t be blamed on any single player, coach, ref call or mistake, instead representing an assortment of various deficiencies that plague the Raps. They will need to get tougher on the boards and along the perimeter while getting more out of Kyle Lowry if they want to get to a Game 5 back home next week.
Lou gets his due
It might make him a bit more expensive this summer, but Williams was a deserving recipient of the Sixth Man award. In just one short year with the Raps, he’s become one of the club’s most popular players and even got featured in a Drake song. It’s hard to know where this club would be without the off-the-bench prowess that allowed Lou to lead all reserves in points (1242), three’s (152) and free throws (340-395) in what was a career renaissance year. Pending free agency aside, kudos is due for a guy who turned himself into a critical asset on a 49-win division champion and gave the franchise their first non-ROY player award.
Lowry’s nightmare series
Tough to imagine how things could have gone any worse for Lowry over the opening two games of this first round series. His 13 points through two games (on 5-20 shooting) have nearly been matched by his 10 personal fouls. While he and Wall both underperformed in Game 1, his point guard counterpart put some major distance between them with a 26-point, 17-assist Game 2 outing. On top of all that, an inadvertent knee-on-knee collision with Paul Pierce somehow did more damage to the 29-year-old than the 37-year-old Wizard. Deadspin has a pretty good, if disheartening, take on Lowry’s struggles through two games.
What just happened?
That was the prevailing question of anyone in attendance on Tuesday night. The Raps came out of the gate so strong and then self-combusted so completely that it was easy to be jarred by looking up at the scoreboard. It took precisely 2:19 of game time for the Wizards to turn what was a two-point Raptor lead into an 11-point advantage (strangely, Dwane Casey opted not to take a timeout during this stretch). After closing the gap to just two points early in the third quarter, Toronto once again crumbled quickly and found themselves down by 12 within 1:33. I could have focused on defence, rebounding or playmaking here, but nothing was more damaging than seeing how immediately and devastatingly things fell apart.
Let’s not blame Tuesday’s loss on some admittedly terrible free throw shooting. Yes, the Raps shot a mere 65.6% (21-32) from the charity stripe. And yes, their 11 free throw misses happened to match the exact deficit by which they ultimately lost. But if you consider one club’s free throw prowess, you must also consider the other’s as well. Washington was only slightly better from the line, making 67.6% (23-34) of their attempts while missing the same 11. James Johnson, who got a huge ovation when he entered the game in the second quarter, missed all four of his free throw attempts, but Porter (1-4) was almost just as bad from the line for Washington.
Beal was an explosive force for the Wiz on Tuesday, scoring 28 points on 12-21 shooting. He is the key to Washington’s hopes for this postseason and beyond. If he’s a blossoming star, the club have a formidable foundation in he and Wall to build upon. If he winds up as just a one-dimensional shooter, Washington still has some work to do in building a title contender.
Things better turn around quickly for the Raps to have any hopes of salvaging this series, starting Friday in Washington (8:00pm, TSN).