The Wizard and Raptors turned Toronto into Brick City tonight, as the two sub-.500 Eastern Conference teams put on a putrid offensive display filled with bad decisions, bad turnovers and, most of all, bad shooting. However, Washington outlasted the Raptors thanks to some good defense and out-rebounding Toronto 49-39. It's the thrid straight win for the Wiz and 14th in the last 22 games. This is only the second road game the Wizards have won against an Eastern Conference opponent. [Milwaukee was the other.] The Wizards have won 7 of their past 9 games and are 7-4 this month, guaranteeing them a winning record for the month of February.
It was not an aesthetically pleasing game, as Washington missed 9 straight shots during one stretch of the first quarter. The Wizards hit only 27% of their shots in the first quarter, but led 17-16 because the Raptors were so careless with the ball. Toronto committed 12 turnovers before halftime.
The Wiz shot only 42% from the field and attempted 10 fewer free throws than the Raptors. But Washington made those free throws count, hitting 15 of 17 from the stripe. The bigger difference, though, was from long range, where the Raptors missed 14 of 19 [26.3%], while Washington was careful and superb, hitting 7 of 12 [58.3%] on 3-pointers.
"Our defense gives us a chance," Head Coach Randy Wittman said after the game. He's right. The Raptors shot under 37% from the floor on the night. Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Nene and Emeka Okafor all had good games defensively, important contributions on a night when Ariza, Nene, and Okafor combined to miss 22 of their 33 shots. Toronto guard Rudy Gay, who played his high school ball in the D.C. area, lit up the Wizards for 24 points in the Raptors' win in D.C. last week, but he couldn't get rolling tonight, with the harassing Wizards defense crawling all over him. Gay missed 10 of 11 shots and scored only 7 points, a big reason Washington got the road win tonight.
The Wiz got a big assist from the bench, with backup point guard AJ Price playing almost as much as John Wall, as the starter got into early foul trouble. Price scored 12 points on 5-7 shooting [2-2 on 3-pointers].
The Wizards built a 40-28 lead late in the second quarter and led 40-32 at halftime. However, the Raptors chipped away at the lead in the third quarter, finally tying the game up at 49. However, that's when Washington turned the tide for good. Beal scored to put the Wiz back up and then Ariza dropped a 3-pointer and AJ Price hit a runner in the lane. Quick and slick the Wiz were back up by 7 and although the Raptors went on a couple of runs, they never took the lead away. Washington led 63-54 going into the fourth quarter.
It looked like the Wizards might run away with it, as they hit 6 of their first 8 shots in the fourth quarter and built the lead back up to 12. However, Beal had to leave the game with foul trouble [he finished with 5] and Washington struggled to score without their rookie on the floor.
Rookie Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 20 points [18 in the first three quarters], hitting 8 of 13 shots and grabbing 6 rebounds. Nene shot terribly for most of the game, but finished strong, scoring 11 points on 4-10 shooting and grabbing 9 rebounds. Even worse as a shooter, tonight, Emeka Okafor hit only 4 of 14, but he did grab 13 boards and played solid defense. Martell Webster scored 12 points on 4-8 shooting, while Wall had another brutal shooting night against the Raptors, missing 8 of 11 and scoring only 10 points. He did a bit better as a point guard, though, dishing 7 assists and committing only 1 turnover.
Leading 83-77 with one minute and 30 seconds left, the Wizards forced a bad miss by Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. John Wall ran the clock down on offense, dribbling aimlessly before putting up a hideous jump shot -- worse than most of his ugly jump shots tonight -- that returned the ball to Toronto. However, a foul on Nene gave the Raptors two free throws and the chance to cut Washington's lead to four. However, DeMar DeRozan made only one of two, so Washington led by 5 points with 1:04 to play and Wizards coach Randy Wittman called timeout to talk things over.
The Wizards had committed 20 turnovers leading to 25 Raptors points so it was critical they protect the ball. However, John Wall inexplicably lost his footing and fell down as he crossed half court. Wall quickly called timeout before Lowry could tie him up and force a jump ball. The Wizards set up a new play and Wall took a slick pass as he cut to the basket, blowing past Amir Johnson who committed himself too far out on the floor, and layed the ball neatly off the glass to extend Washington's lead to seven with 46 seconds to play.
Rudy Gay missed a long three-pointer from the corner, but Trevor Ariza fell out of bounds as he grabbed the rebound. It looked like Ariza was fouled by Kyle Lowry, but nothing was called and the Raptors got the ball back. That led to long shots from Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry, both of which missed, as the Wizards struggled to grab rebounds and hold the ball. Finally, Wall grabbed a Lowry miss and, after taking an in-bounds pass, was fouled by Lowry, sending Wall to the line. Wall calmly sank both shots, putting Washington up by nine points with 17.4 seconds to play.
Lowry quickly hit a 3-pointer on the next play to reduce Washington's lead to 87-81 with 15 seconds left. Martell Webster took the in-bounds pass and was fouled immediately and sent to the line. Webster, 19th in the NBA in free throw shooting, hit both shots to push the lead back up to eight, 89-81. Lowry then hit another 3-pointer, this one from about 30 feet, to cut the lead to 89-84. Garrett Temple snuck behind the defense and was tripped as the long pass arrived. The call probably should have been a clear path foul, giving Washington two free throws and possession, but the refs went with a standard foul. Temple made the first shot, but missed the second. The Raptors threw up a desperation three, but it missed and the clock sounded game.
Final score: Washington 90 Toronto 84.
Next game: Wizards host Detroit Pistons on Wednesday at 7 PM.