John Wall led the charge in the 122-103 win, notching 28 points and 14 assists on a delightful montage of pull-up jumpers and tight-window dimes. And Bradley Beal was a worthy second banana, adding 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting plus three steals in his best two-way effort in recent memory.
Put simply, the Wizards just polished off their most complete game of the season at just the right time. If the team can maintain that level of intensity on Sunday, Washington could head back to Toronto with a real chance at taking control of the series.
For as well as it ended though, things didn’t start off so rosy for Washington. The Raptors jumped out to an early 19-12 lead, with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry scoring 10 and 6 in the first quarter to get Toronto going. Losing those starter-vs-starter minutes continued a concerning series trend for the Wizards, who have historically won their games against the Raptors by outplaying their starting unit.
Ironically, it was the Washington bench that woke up the Wizards (and their late-arriving crowd). Oubre entered the game and immediately tried to dunk Serge Ibaka into another dimension, then followed that up with blocks on Delon Wright and DeMar DeRozan. He also did... well, this:
Behind the increased energy from Oubre and Ian Mahinmi, the Wizards erased that early deficit and finished the first quarter ahead, 30-29.
Washington continued that defensive effort in the second quarter. The Wizards were a constant presence in the passing lanes, repeatedly swiping the ball away from Toronto and scoring in transition on the other end. With 6:39 left in the half, the Wizards led 17-to-2 in points off turnovers and 14-to-4 in fast break points.
The Raptors hung around with some hot three-point shooting, but Wall and Beal carried the Wizards into the half with a 69-61 lead. And in the third quarter, the Wizards started to pull away.
Gortat, sporting his newly bald head and a positive attitude, put together a dominant pick-and-roll performance with Wall. He screened his point guard open for a number of smooth jumpers and finished off Wall’s creative dishes with ease. Coming off a zero-point, three-rebound performance in game two, the Polish big man was a huge difference-maker as the Wizards built their lead.
Wall, though, was the standout star of the night and clearly the best player on the floor. The Raptors seemed happy to give him space in the midrange, and he made them pay again and again and again. With Gortat in the game, Wall wiggled his way into the paint off screens, showing a deftness and finesse that had been missing in game one of the series, for example. The Wizards blew the game open, leading 101-82 as the fourth quarter began.
With the game all but over, the Raptors made a last-ditch effort to come back by going small with Pascal Siakam at the five. Scott Brooks wisely countered with Mike Scott as the lone big man, and the two teams alternated sloppy possessions for a few minutes.
Lowry cut the Washington lead to just 13 with seven minutes to play, but that’s when Wall decided he’d had enough. The Wizards cleared the lane and ran five-out isolations for Wall on several consecutive possessions, and he relentlessly shoved his way to the rim until the Raptors were forced to pull their starters and leave empty-handed.
When the Wiz stayed big, they pushed it down the Raptors’ throats with the 1-5 pick-and-roll. And when Toronto forced Brooks’ hand to go small, Washington spread the floor and let Wall put the game away.
Maybe the Wizards can go big?
After an apocalyptic first couple games that led Brooks to consider starting Scott at center, Gortat and Mahinmi were both excellent in game three. Mahinmi was a big part of the bench crew that dragged Washington back into the game in the first quarter, and Gortat was a driving factor in how the Wizards put the game away.
Jonas Valanciunas was a relative non-factor in this game (14 points and only 5 rebounds), as the bigs handled him well on both ends. The Raptors even took him off the floor when they tried to shake things up to begin the fourth quarter, indicating that Dwane Casey realized his ineffectiveness against Wall and Gortat’s finishing inside the paint.
This is something to watch going forward— Gortat has played Valanciunas off the court in years past, and him just drawing even in that match-up would be huge for Washington.
Scott Brooks’ preferred rotation has emerged
The Wizards played just nine men before the game was out of hand, with Scott, Oubre, Mahinmi and Ty Lawson coming off the bench.
Tomas Satoransky logged only three pre-garbage-time minutes in Game 3, which is concerning. Sato was clearly the Wizards’ best back-up guard this season, and he did an admirable job as a fill-in starter for Wall. He deserves to be on the court in the playoffs.
Brooks’ rotation clearly worked tonight, but this Lawson situation still feels tenuous. It’s hard to trust him to keep up this level of play, and he’s not providing much on the defensive end to justify playing time if his shot ever stops going in. Lawson was just 1-of-4 from the field tonight.
This series could get chippy
Interspersed with all the beautiful transition plays in this game were several physical altercations. OG Anunoby and Markieff Morris got into it early with a shoving match that resulted in double technical fouls.
Later, Beal and Valanciunas fought over a pretty obvious, uncalled delay-of-game by the Toronto big man after he committed a charge. The two locked arms and stopped play further, prompting a technical foul on Beal. And during the same play, Wall and Ibaka got into a shouting match of some sort.
Tempers flared a bit in this one. The Wizards sometimes play inspired ball when they’re angry, but things can also go wrong for them in a hurry.
- Otto Porter had a pretty disappointing night, going 3-of-7 for just 8 points in 31 minutes. The Wizards said they would try to get Porter some extra shots coming into this game, and he/they just couldn’t deliver. The Wizards will need him if Scott ever stops burning holes in the fabric of the universe.
- CJ Miles couldn’t get anything to go tonight. He was just 1-of-5 from three and a minus-22 in his 23 minutes. Hard to see that continuing, but it sure would be nice.