The Washington Wizards fell 2-0 Tuesday in a 130-119 loss to the Toronto Raptors, who were led by DeMar DeRozan’s game-high 37 points. John Wall led Washington in the box once again with a 29 points, 9 assists night, while Ty Lawson premiered for the Wizards with 14 points and 8 assists in 31 minutes off the bench. Despite the contributions on the offensive end, Washington demonstrated little improvement on their defensive assignments.
Down 76-58 by halftime, the Wizards’ only solace came from their bench production. Reserve power forward Mike Scott led the away team with 14 points while starters Bradley Beal and Wall combined for only 13. Beal would end up 3-for-11 from the field after an 8-for-17 showing in Game 1. Worse yet, center Marcin Gortat finished a dreadful 0-for-4 night. Gortat performed so poorly he was only on the court for a little over 12 minutes compared to his 6-for-9 Game 1 performance which earned him 28 1/2 minutes.
Washington rallied behind Wall, Scott, and Lawson–and some unusual small-ball lineups as a circumstance of their success–and cut what was once as much as a 24-point deficit down to only 5 with 7:52 left to play. Toronto responded with a contested 30′ three-pointer by C.J. Miles, and from there, nothing seemed to go right. Wizards wing Kelly Oubre fell out of sync and showed a lack of awareness, Beal continued to show a lack of range, and the Wizards would find themselves down by as many as 20 with 2:33 left in regulation.
While Washington showed flashes of success in the last two games against Toronto, the Raptors are–from top to bottom–the team with the stronger starting five. Center Jonas Valanciunas finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds to Gortat’s 0 points and 3 rebounds; Beal finished with 9 points to DeRozan’s 37. Serge Ibaka finished an assist short of a double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds to Markieff Morris’s 6 and 4, punctuated by a +32 for Ibaka’s +/- to Morris’s -31 despite some sneaky backdoors. If the Wizards hope to turn things around in Washington, they will need to learn how to rotate on the defensive end and contain Toronto’s shooters, but it will be no small feat as they have proven unable to stop Valanciunas inside. If they stop the Raptors behind the three-point arc, they might still be unable to control DeRozan, Valanciunas, and OG Anunoby off Kyle Lowry drives. If Washington can somehow get the Raptors to force mid-jumpers, however, the Wizards could net a win.
Game 3 will air 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Look for Washington to get Gortat and Beal involved early if they hope to turn the tide, with emphasis on Scott and Lawson in their second-unit given their exemplary performances through two games. Defensively, Washington’s best hope has to be stopping DeRozan. Of all of the players Toronto fields, DeRozan is the one guy you cannot afford to let roam.