John Wall led Washington in defeat Saturday evening in a 114-106 loss to the #1 seed Toronto Raptors, who pushed the tempo all night and scorched the Wizards from behind the three point arc (16/30, 53.3%), something the team has been doing to competitors all year long. The #8 seed Wizards were led by Wall’s game-high-tying 23 points as well as an impressive performance by forward Markieff Morris, who scored an efficient 22 points on 15 shots in a game in which Washington’s bigs suffered early foul trouble.
Following an unusual leaky-roof delay at Air Canada Centre, Marcin Gortat began what would ultimately result in a losing first-half battle to opposing center Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas worked quietly thereafter, scoring 7 of his 9 points after two quarters of action. The whole opening sequence to Game 1, however, was quite day-after-Friday-the-13th odd. In an awkward battle for the opening tip-off, Gortat was charged for a personal foul, something quite unusual for an opening-tip, as most often the referee will instead issue a violation (essentially a turnover). Three minutes later, Gortat was charged for his second foul, which sent Ian Mahinmi in as a replacement. Mahinmi, however, picked up two quick fouls in just over two and a half minutes of play.
Wizards reserve Mike Scott emerged as a silver lining in both the loss and as a result of the early foul trouble. He scored 8 points in the second quarter and helped Washington facilitate a 13-0 run. He–like Valanciunas–did not provide a whole lot of offense in the second half. The second half, for Washington, was a Wall-Morris show, while Raptors guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry–who combined for only 7 first-half points–combined for 21 points in the second half. But as much as Wall pushed back, he did not get the looks–or the calls from the referees–needed to stop the clock and steal a win.
Washington’s Game 1 performance lacked strong perimeter defense and transition defense. The first problem is something the Wizards can only try to solve by getting Toronto to dribble the ball, but it is a difficult task as the Raptors can flat-out shoot the three and they have a lot of guys that do that job well. The second problem is, hopefully, something Gortat and company can better manage from the interior as they avoid foul trouble. In addition, Wall–who committed 5 turnovers–Bradley Beal, and Tomas Satoransky will need to do a better job of providing Washington balance. Wall had a 13 points, 10 assists line by halftime; he did his job. At times, however, Washington’s offense fell stagnant: the shot clock fell and the Wizards did not get a good look, which in turn gave Toronto a fastbreak opportunity.
Satoransky, who has done rather well here and there over the course of the regular season in the absence of Wall, managed only a single assist in just under 12 minutes on the floor. That has to change if the Wizards hope to topple the Raptors in Game 2, which will air Tuesday, April 17, at 7:00 p.m. on NBATV.