At some point, John Wall was going to have a poor shooting night. After a month of torrid performances, it finally happened against the Toronto Raptors. Wall ended just 5-17 from the field and the Wizards' offense sputtered, putting in just 28 second-half points in an 88-78 loss.
It was an offensive performance reminiscent of the November Wizards. With Wall's jumper not falling, Martell Webster's hot stroke fading and Bradley Beal on the sidelines, the Raptors packed the paint and dared the Wizards to beat them from the outside. Washington couldn't drive and kick for open threes, nor could they force double teams in the post. As a result, their offense consisted mostly of mid-range jumpers from Nene and Emeka Okafor, and that won't work.
The worst part is that the Wizards looked to be in great shape in the first half. It was almost like a role reversal, actually.They had the defense that was stifling. They were grinding out hoops by working through all their half-court options and crashing the glass. They had the 15-point lead at one point.
But that was before the third quarter that we will never speak of again. The Raptors started pushing the Wizards around inside, and Washington suddenly couldn't buy a bucket. They tried going to ol' reliable Nene, but he was powerless to create anything against Jonas Valanciunas' length. They tried running more pick and rolls for Wall, but the Raptors' wings pinched in and cut off any lanes. On other other end, the Wizards were BEEP victimized by BEEP a lot of BEEP whistles, enabling BEEP the Raptors BEEP to parade BEEP to the BEEP free-throw BEEP line.
The Wizards rallied a bit in the fourth quarter, but Toronto stopped that run pretty quickly. Layups by Landry Fields andAmir Johnson helped kick a three-point lead back up to seven with six and a half minutes remaining, and the Wizards never got closer than four from there. The Raptors kept grinding them down defensively and put in enough hoops to keep Washington at bay. All in all, the Wizards only had seven second-half field goals.
And thus, the Wizards were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
- Martell Webster has not shot well for a few games now, which is a bit of a concern. In his last six games, including tonight, he's hit just 21-75 from the field and a ghastly 3-27 from downtown. You have to wonder if the sports hernia injury that caused him to sit out a couple games recently is still bothering him.
- First-half Nene was excellent, but second-half Nene was not. A lack of lift was evident throughout the game, but only really became a problem after the first-half buzzer. Considering Nene played 15 first-half minutes andwasn't sure he could give the Wizards 20 minutes total because of knee pain, that isn't a huge surprise.
- Jonas Valanciunas was tremendous tonight. He took good shots when he had the chance and locked down the paint whenever the Wizards tried to drive. The big reason Toronto was able to play such stifling wing defense is that they knew Valanciunas would have their back if they got beat. He's going to be a really good one.