Sunday’s Game 4 in Washington really could have gone one of two ways – either the Toronto Raptors (0-4) find just enough motivation and self-respect to will themselves away from getting swept, or they enter the game having already checked out and fail to show up. After a 125-94 loss that served as a wire-to-wire beatdown and the culmination of a bewildering, embarrassing downward spiral for the Raps, there’s little questions over which way Game 4 went.
Over four games and across eight short days, the positive bubble surrounding the Raptors – as a beacon of hope amidst a bleak Toronto sports scene – burst spectacularly. Holding home court advantage and facing a team that was at best considered inferior and at worst an equal to the Raps, Toronto was summarily dominated over four hapless games en route to an early summer. A Game 1 overtime disappointment turned out to be less an early obstacle and more a series’ high-point amongst so many lows.
In the game that proved to be the final nail in the coffin, the Raps offered up meek resistance as the Wizards pretty much did anything they wanted offensively. Scoring 30 points or better in each of the first three quarters and reaching the 100-point plateau before the start of the fourth, Washington clicked with an efficient scoring effort that included 55.4% (41-74) shooting from the field, 57.7% (15-26) shooting from three-point range and 82.4% (28-34) shooting from the free throw line.
As the Wiz get set for a second round series that will likely pit them against the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto now heads into an off-season filled with questions and uncertainty. It’s hard to foresee anyone, coaches or players, short of Bruno Caboclo who is completely safe in what could (and should) be a summer of turnover and change. The team we see to start the 2015-16 season could be very different than the humbled, defeated bunch that limped out of the Verizon Center on Sunday night.
Yes, I realize that’s a vague, generic title, but I really don’t have the time, patience or desire to cover off every single facet of what the Raptors did wrong in bottoming out on Sunday. In never leading and trailing by as many as 37 points, the sweep was really never in doubt. On the series, Toronto was out-rebounded 193-154 and out-assisted 105-78 on the series, losing by an average of 14 points per game thanks to the shameful Game 4 blowout.
Per Kevin Pelton of ESPN, the 56-point differential for the Wizards over the course of the series marks the largest ever in a best-of-seven series by a lower-ranked team. You want other stats that represent the humiliation of a series that will live on as one of the franchise’s all-time lowlights? How about Kyle Lowry, who finished with as many fouls as field goals (20) and had two more assists all series than counterpart John Wall had in Game 2. How about DeMar DeRozan, who accumulated a -47 plus/minus rating over the four games. How about 47 turnovers, or 11.75 per game?
No surprise that the Paul Pierce trolling has continued in the aftermath of a series sweep that proved that the Raps don’t exactly have ‘it’.
While the Wizards weren’t really tested in Round 1, it’ll be their defence that comes under fire against the Hawks in Round 2 (assuming, of course, that the Nets can’t mount a rally and set up a series between Pierce and his old teammates). The perimeter D of Pierce, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter will be challenged by Atlanta’s army of shooters and exceptional ball movement. It will also be interesting to see how effective Nene and Marcin Gortat (Washington’s best player on Sunday, with 21 points on 8-9 shooting and 11 rebounds) will be against Al Horford and Paul Millsap.
A fascinating off-season that includes some big decisions, to say the least. Later this week, I will offer up my thoughts on just exactly what Masai Ujiri’s to-do list should look like this summer.