It wouldn’t be a Toronto Raptors playoff series if we didn’t have to sweat a little, right? As their first round series against the Wizards shifted scenes to D.C., there was an air of invincibility about the Raptors. While there were some downsides — their bench wasn’t playing well, Fred VanVleet was injured, the back end of the roster was a negative — there was more than enough to feel good about. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, namely, were getting up for playoff games! Serge Ibaka and Delon Wright were making threes. Jonas Valanciunas looked like the Incredible Hulk.
Still, there’s always an opportunity for this team to step on their own feet. In Game 3, they did just that, as the Wizards won 122-103.
Washington didn’t come out with any particular fire, but Toronto fed them tinder with 14 first-half turnovers — a thorough, sloppy offensive display from the starters on down. Washington fed off it, and their two superstar guards in John Wall and Bradley Beal (who don’t need a lot to start feeling themselves) had great shooting nights as a result.
Just based on depth alone, the Wizards don’t have much of a chance in this series unless Wall and Beal played like they did in Game 3. They matched each other’s game highs of 28 points; Wall added 14 assists, six rebounds, and four steals for a monstrous line.
Toronto, meanwhile, got a good all-around performance from Kyle Lowry (19 points, eight assists, four rebounds), but he and his backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan were far too sloppy passing the ball, combining for eight of Toronto’s 18 turnovers. The supporting cast was also disappointing: Serge Ibaka had just three points on 1-for-4 shooting, while the bench combined for just 32 points.
While the Wizards were often lackadaisical in Toronto, they showed some signs of life early in the first quarter. On an interior foul call, Markieff Morris took exception to... something(?) OG Anunoby did to him, with a couple shoves ensuing. OG’s level of give-a-crap was impressively low. With that as their jumping-off point, the Raptors starters rode some nice Valanciunas play to build a small lead, 15-10, until their shift ended.
JV blow by.— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 21, 2018
(Yes you read that right) pic.twitter.com/g2E1TlD59S
Then, it was time for the bench, and the youth bigs continued a disappointing stretch of playoff appearances. The Wizards have been able to out-muscle Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl — Ian Mahinmi has owned Poeltl especially — and the physicality seemed to throw the Raptors off their ball movement offence. The bench continued a trend started by the starters, ugly turnovers, and the Wizards went on a 12-0 run late in the first.
In the second, the Raptors went all-bench with Norman Powell in the Fred VanVleet slot. The result was not great, but Toronto’s bench mob showed decent defensive intensity to keep it close. In fact, it was the starters who came back in and lost control of the wheel — allowing a mid-quarter run to Washington to help them build a 13-point lead. Out of a timeout, there was a response and Toronto ran their offence crisper, and the Wizards went into halftime up just eight.
In the third, Anunoby continued a strong game on both ends — nabbing a steal and putting up a defensive wall to get the Raptors off to a short run. It was negated, though, by a near-fight halfway through the quarter. Bradley Beal, trying to take the ball from Jonas Valanciunas (who was arguing with the official), got into a talking circle that quickly grew. It ended, as these things usually do, with Serge Ibaka trying to take a run at John Wall, and the teams were separated.
It seemed like, after that, the Raptors mentally checked out of the game. Their offence was not sharp on Friday, as the early turnovers may have forced a little timidity from Lowry and DeRozan. There was also a discomfort for the shooters, who didn’t seem willing to take the open looks they were getting. (We miss you, Fred!)
In the fourth, a short experiment with Siakam at the five didn’t yield any large run, and the Wizards pushed the lead beyond 20.
The series will now continue Sunday night, as the Raptors try to recover and force a clincher at the Air Canada Centre. Try not to sweat too much in the interim.