The Washington Wizards defeated the Toronto Raptors 131-129 in OT on Thursday night, snapping a nine-game overall losing streak to their Canadian opponent. Here’s how it happened:
The game began how it typically does for this squad, with the Wizards scoring but allowing the other side to score at will. Spurred on by shooting 50% from the field and 53% from three in the first frame, the Raptors entered the second quarter leading the Wizards 33 - 31.
On to the second quarter, where the bout became a game of runs. Trailing by six, the Wizards went on a quick 5-0 run to cut the Raptors lead to one. But then the Wizards would get no closer. Forever known to send double teams against offensive greats, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse instructed his Toronto expats to take gravity away from Bradley Beal. Thinking how is he supposed to breathe, let alone score with no air, the Raptors executed this stifling plan, grounding the Wizards’ high-octane offense.
As a result, the Wizards watched and missed as the Raptors clawed to a 13 point halftime lead. Most notable at halftime was the fact Davis Bertans was the team’s leading scorer— with 11.
With Bertans joining the starters in the second half, the thinking had to be that another shooter would cause Toronto to pause before sending a double/triple-team Brad’s way. But Nurse continued to send the double, and Pascal Siakam commenced his onslaught on the Wizards frontcourt defense. Ultimately finishing with a career-high 44, Siakam ruthlessly hunted for a matchup with Bertans. Who could blame him? But Siakam wouldn’t be the only one setting a new career-high. For countering this onslaught from Pascal was none other than our plucky sparkplug, Raul Neto.
Coming alive in the third quarter, Raul Neto splashed in some timely threes, as his play helped the Wizards go on a 20-7 run to close the third, leaving the team with only a 4 point deficit to make up in the fourth. And which they did. With Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook coming alive down the stretch, the Wizards held a three-point lead with under 20 seconds left to play.
But that was more than enough time to send the game into OT. Inexplicably leaving Fred with too much room, Russell Westbrook let him raise up for a game-tying three that had all of us wondering if this would be yet another #SoWizards L. Heading into OT, the mood was gloomy. Until it wasn’t.
Bringing brighter days as he rained down hook shots, Robin Lopez carried this team during OT. From grabbing offensive boards to knocking down clutch free throwers, Captain Hook put the Wizards in a great position to close out the game. Davis Bertans defense and a bonehead lapse of judgment by Russell Westbrook, however, nearly undid all of the Captain’s good work. Davis couldn’t slide his feet against Siakam, and but for Siakam’s splitting of two pairs of free-throws, these fouls nearly proved costly. Even more potentially costlier was Russell Westbrook's double gaffe. With Toronto pressuring the ball, Russ decided to politic for a foul. When he didn’t get it he did what every coach abhors: left his feet to make a pass. The pass, of course, was intercepted, and the Raptors were given a chance to cut the then-4 point lead down to 2. Why? Because Russ, after the horrible turnover, decided to foul a very, very good shooter.
The rest of the game proceeded just as tensely. Siakam converted a three-point play to bring the game within one. Garrison Mathews split a pair of free throws; and the Raptors, without any timeout’s, had about 3.4 seconds to snatch the Wizards soul. But to no avail, as Siakam’s long-distance heave careened off the backboard and into the waiting arms of the victorious Wizards.
What a win! Here’s to five more wins, as we shock the world and secure the 7th seed. Big game on Saturday, folks. See y'all then!