There doesn't need to be too detailed an analysis of what took place last night. That's not JUST me being lazy, it's the effect of the stink the Raptors left behind over the past week. The Washington Wizards soundly and handily beat our beloved Raptors 125-94 to move on the Conference Semifinals. For the Wizards and coach Randy Wittman, it marks the second straight year winning their 1st round series. With a nice mix of emerging talent and reliable veterans, it's a team on the right track towards building a contender.
For the Raptors, the nightmare week is now over, leaving fans with no real positives to hold on to until November. Sports are cruel; no one wants a 6-month long lingering memory of their team to be a 30 point loss to close out a playoff sweep, but here we are. Masai Ujiri hollering expletives in an effort to rally his team and fan base feels like ages ago. It didn't work. Nothing worked this past week.
The series will more than likely be the least competitive in the NBA playoffs (maybe Memphis-Portland has something to say). Defensively, the Raptors were in shambles. Offensively, they were stifled by Washington's length and energy. John Wall and Bradley Beal ran circles around Toronto's guards. Jonas Valanciunas was overmatched by the mobility and strength of Marcin Gortat and Nene. Look around the rest of the roster and it's not much different. Terrence Ross? Greivis Vasquez? Lou Williams? Dwane Casey? No one performed when it counted. I hesitate to blame a lack of effort, because I think everyone was trying. And that only makes it worse because it wasn't even close to good enough. Here we are. Where do we go from here?
Wizards led by double digits for 69 minutes this series. Raptors led by any margin for 53 minutes— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 27, 2015
Wizards' OffRtg for the series: 112.5. That's just a hair worse than their best 4-game offensive stretch of the reg. season (112.9).— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) April 27, 2015
What happens now is difficult to say, something the HQ team will try to address in the coming days. Having so many things go wrong means blame is difficult to pin on any one individual. When that happens, the spin-the-bottle usually ends up pointing at the Coach. I sympathize with Dwane Casey here. I don't think he's blessed with an exceedingly talented roster, but he got them to buy in and took this franchise to new heights. But when your team is built on smoke and mirrors and chemistry, if your rudimentary schemes get figured out, you can expect things to fall apart the way they did. When asked about if he thought he could've done anything differently, Casey said:
No, we tried everything. We made adjustments, we tried to make every proper adjustment, according to their small lineup, their big lineup, their pick ‘n roll game, their post-up game. The only thing we didn’t implement, and it was tough for us to get in, was our zone. Everything else, we switched, they exploited that.
If you feel like you did everything you could as a coach in a series this lopsided, either you're a bad coach or you didn't actually try things, or both. Consider the Pound The Rock philosophy the 2013-14 Raptors were built upon. That was a resilient team that fought tooth and nail to the end in every game. Between last year and this year, the personnel is virtually the same, but style of play and the results have somehow become drastically different. Diagnosing what changed will be one of Masai Ujiri's toughest tasks this offseason.
As for the players themselves, this starts and finishes with Kyle Lowry.
Lowry has more fouls (16) than assists (15) in this series— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) April 26, 2015
Then there's the stagnation of Terrence Ross, the slow development of Jonas Valanciunas, the pending free agency of Amir Johnson, the limitations of DeMar DeRozan. Questions exist across the board all over this roster for Masai Ujiri. He maintained flexibility last offseason to further evaluate his roster. Make no mistake, change is coming. There was an ominous feeling of an era coming to an end last night. It's why we kept watching as Washington pushed their lead into the 30s. A year ago, we seemed to be on the cusp of something, building towards something meaningful, but that's all come crashing down after one of the more humiliating series losses I've witnessed. No one wants to confront that reality. But after all that carnage, here we are.