It won’t be too much of a surprise if the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors play each other in the first round of the NBA playoffs, and by the looks of their most recent encounter, it’ll be one hell of a series. However, finding a way to stop John Wall is going to be necessary to make it a fair fight.
Not that a 134-129 game with three overtimes isn’t a fair one. However, Wall scored whenever he wanted to (finishing with 31 points), and came up with the big defensive play as well when the Wizards needed him the most. A huge block on Kyle Lowry to send the game into another overtime, his moves on offense against a bad Raptors defense and the clutch steal in the third overtime to finally seal the game.
Wall wasn’t alone in finding it easy to score against the Raptors, as Marcin Gortat also finished with 31 points. We saw some ugly shooting from the Wizards, hitting only 5-of-22 from beyond the arc, but they almost scored at will when driving to the basket, scoring 80 points in the paint. Bradley Beal (4-of-16 on the night) scored what seemed to be a game winning shot at the end of the second overtime, but another look at the monitors showed that he didn’t let the ball out in time.
The Raptors didn’t find the Wizards’ defense too challenging, but after their early lead, it always looked like they were the ones looking for answers, usually finding them with DeMar DeRozan, leading the way scoring 34 points. He is now the first Raptors player since Chris Bosh with six 30-point games in a month, last happening on November 2008. He got help from Greivis Vasquez, coming off the bench to score 26 points.
However, it was a rough night for Kyle Lowry, maybe the most important player for the Raptors this season. He was only 6-of-18 from the field, narrowly missing out on a triple double, but fouling out just like Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson. Their foul trouble meant the awful Jonas Valanciunas was back in the game, which was great news for Gortat. Valanciunas did have 7 points and 10 rebounds, but his sophomore slump continues on both ends of the floor.
Andre Miller, who played only 15 minutes as he makes his way out of NBA hibernation, played a key role in the second quarter, helping the Wizards come back from the early deficit they fell into. He’s not completely fit for long games just yet, but there are still two more months before the postseason begins, and it looks like the Raptors are big winners on this one, especially when you see how badly the Nuggets are doing with their point guard situation.
A great game for those who love offense, but especially for people who love to see John Wall. He didn’t start in the All-Star game, but he has been the best point guard in the Eastern conference this season. He’s averaging 20 points and 8.6 assists and will be finally making the playoffs, weak East or not.
The Wizards decided to make him their max-contract player, a franchise player and face. For now, with the right moves they’re making to improve around him, that decision seems to be the right one.