If you are wondering why the Wizards are down 2-0 in their first round series against Raptors, you can look no further than their porous defense that has allowed Toronto to average 122 points per game and make 29 threes so far in this series. The 130 points in Game 2 were the most points given up by a Wizards team in the playoffs since 1986.
Toronto has been one of the best offensive teams in the league, but both of those figures are up significantly from their season’s average. It begs the question, what is going on with the Wizards’ defense? Game 2 provided some clear insight as to why Toronto is having their way on offense against Washington.
It is bad enough that Ian Mahinmi is switched onto DeMar DeRozan here, but because of the defensive breakdown he’s also ceding inside position to Jakob Poeltl while Mike Scott tries to help cut off Siakam. As a result, he gives up a wide open three to DeRozan.
Beal struggled on offense in Game 2, but his defense wasn’t much better. He got in early foul trouble because he tried to compensate for going under screens with hard closeouts and the end result was several fouls on jump shooters like this one.
This play could have actually turned out worse than it ended up. Delon Wright was wide open in the corner, where he shot 41 percent this season. What’s the point of Beal leaving his man open in the corner if he isn’t going to contest DeRozan’s shot?
On this play, Oubre gets screened here by Wall’s man, but instead of picking DeRozan up, Wall breaks one of the cardinal sins of transition basketball by failing to stop the man with the ball. He lets him go hoping Morris can cut him off, but by then DeRozan is coming so quickly that he’s already too late.
Here, Wall switches onto DeRozan and plays off him, because he’s anticipating a screen from Valanciunas. He ends up so far out of position anticipating the screen that he gives DeRozan a clear lane to the basket. All Wall ends up doing is waving his arm in an attempt to take the ball, which of course doesn’t do anything.
Poor Pick-and-Roll Coverage
On this play, Beal makes the decision to chase Lowry, who does a great job of taking the screen from Valancinuas. As a result, Beal ends up behind the play, and Gortat is left in a two-on-one situation.
The lack of communication on this play is what makes it so poorly executed. Gortat could have stayed on Lowry while Beal went underneath the screen to cut off the passing lane. The risk is that Lowry could beat Gortat off the dribble before Beal can recover, but what helps here, is Lowry is going towards the middle of the defense so there wouldn’t be a lot of room for him to operate. Otto Porter could have stayed near the middle of the lane to slow down Lowry until Beal recovered and that would have given Gortat a chance to get back to Valancinuas. Instead, they gave up an easy shot at the rim.
Mahinmi does a good job of hedging Lowry to cut off his driving lane, but he stays too long. It forces Porter to collapse to the paint to deny Valanciunas which leaves DeRozan plenty of room to get off an uncontested three.
It’s hard to say if this was a lack of effort on Ty Lawson’s part to get back and stop Lowry going to the basket, or if this was simply Markieff Morris getting in Lawson’s way because he was too focused on the ball instead of his man. Either way, it’s an avoidable breakdown in communication which led to an unnecessary double-team on Lowry while Ibaka got open for a three. These are simple mistakes that can’t happen, especially in the playoffs.
This play had a little bit of everything. Yes, Norman Powell is getting away with a moving screen on Oubre, but Mike Scott has to recognize that and close out on Miles. Instead, he gives one of the Raptors’ most prolific outside shooters get a wide open shot to extend Toronto’s lead.
There are even more examples that are out there from Game 2, but I think you all get the point.
Give the Raptors credit here, they are a much improved offensive team who does a great job executing their sets, but many of these plays could have been made more difficult if the Wizards had executed better defensively.
The Wizards’ offense was pretty good in the first two games. They posted 109.6 points per 100 possessions, the fifth-best rate so far in the playoffs and nearly three points better than their season average, even though they’re playing one of the best defenses in the league. Problem is, they’re giving up 119.4 points per 100 possessions on the other end. That’s nearly nine full points worse than the last-place Suns averaged during the regular season.
Each possession is precious in the playoffs. A team like the Wizards can ill-afford to continue to make these types of mistakes if they expect to have any chance in this series.