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Game 4 Turning Point: Bradley Beal fouls out, and the Raptors fall apart

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With Beal was forced off the court, it should have been a better time for Toronto. Instead, they got outscored down the stretch, gave up their lead, and lost Game 4.

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With just five minutes to go in the fourth quarter of Game 4 between the Raptors and Wizards, DeMar DeRozan jumped and caught an offensive rebound and banged right into Bradley Beal. The whistle blew, Beal was called for the foul, his sixth, and was summarily ejected. As you can imagine, Beal did not like the call.

As you can also surely imagine, there was a lot of commentary on social media about this call, the decision to declare Beal’s sixth foul in this situation, and how the officials got it totally, objectively wrong.

Meanwhile, our guy John Gaudes tweeted this:

This is, by any measure, an extremely subjective take, and as many shared in our mentions (thanks largely to some blue-checkmark dude’s inspired use of this GIF), one that is biased — or perhaps even delusional. There are all sorts of qualifications we could add here: that Beal was called for a foul earlier that was (rightly?) re-assigned to Mike Scott, that there was all kinds of clutching and grabbing going on in the game, and many calls were not made as DeRozan went tumbling to the ground, that the Wizards had been working the refs ever since this inspiring two block sequence from Delon Wright and Pascal Siakam, that the Wiz had indeed been complaining about the officials since Game 1 when John Wall felt things were not going his way.

Or we can just acknowledge that, as always, the refs are human and make subjective decisions one way or the other — sometimes they are objectively wrong. Sometimes our commentary on those decisions is objectively wrong. It’s hard to argue with that high level philosophical take (though I’m sure some will try to anyway).

My takeaways from the situation then are three-fold, and they connect nicely into the turning point of Game 4 (although, hopefully not the series as a whole).

The first is built around my subsequent tweet, one designed to (ideally) address some of the comments being lobbed our way.

(For the record, Gaudes was on the account for the night, but I did drop in with this tweet, and one other — I’ll let you guess which one that was!)

Obviously, we at HQ are trying to report things as they happen with the Raptors. We’re trying to be a news source, one that can update Raps fans with the goings-on around the team. For example, if Fred VanVleet is going to sit out Game 5, we’d like to let you know as soon as possible. If the Wizards are killing the Raptors in transition because of turnovers, we’ll make a note of that too. This is part of the site’s mandate, for sure.

But we’ve never pretended to be an objective source for commentary. I mean, it’s right there in the name! We’re a Raptors fan site, and we want the Raptors to win every game. What’s more, especially in the playoffs, we’d like the other team — be it the Wizards, Bucks, Cavaliers, or whomever else — to lose. I’d like to believe most sports fans, particularly the ones jumping in on SB Nation sites, would understand that frame of reference. There’s bound to be some subjectivity baked right into our analysis from the jump. How could there not be?

Which brings me to the second wrinkle in all of this. The second part of Gaudes’ tweet, the part commenting on the Wizards’ inherent unlikeability, really should be beyond reproach. From every corner of the NBA world, we bagged on the Wizards this season. We collectively spent time clowning on them for not even liking each other at times. (My favourite genre of Wizards slander definitely comes from Albert Burneko of Deadspin; he’s so mean to them, and he’s also one of their biggest fans!) Through the year, John Wall was upset with Marcin Gortat, or Beal couldn’t see eye-to-eye with Wall, or everyone on the team was taking turns poking at Otto Porter Jr. I was under the impression this was an established fact — it felt like the biggest reason the team slid to eighth place in the East in the first place. This was the situation for the Wiz as recently as last week for goodness sakes:

Now, here’s where I’m going to bring my own subjectivity to bear: I find Beal himself to be annoying as hell, and something of a massive front-runner. After Game 2, when things weren’t going his way (as per the above clip), Beal was silent both during and after the game. He even took the podium in a state of silent grief after Game 1. It looked like the Raptors had broken him.

But now, when the shots suddenly start going in, guess who is the most demonstrative and excitable soul on the court? None other than Bradley Beal! Does my annoyance here stem from the fact that he’s put in two stellar games in a row to tie the series at 2-2? But of course! Do I want him to go back to being the silent moper he was in those first two games when he looked lost in a fog? That’s a bingo! It should not be a surprise then that Beal and the Wizards are highly unlikeable to me as a Raptors fan. On top of that, the Wiz were broadly unlikeable to many an NBA spectator who took delight in their bizarre soap opera-like downfall through most of the regular season. So please, taking all of this to account, allow us this moment of extreme saltiness. We want the Wizards to lose, and we come by it honestly.

And finally, the third point, the thing that truly frustrates me, and drives us Raptors fans completely insane: Toronto still managed to lose the game. Yes, despite having the lead for most of its 48 minutes, despite watching Beal foul out on a questionable call, despite being the number one seed in the conference, despite all of these objective facts, it didn’t matter. The Raptors lost, and the series is tied 2-2.

This was Game 4’s turning point. It was the moment the Raptors regressed to the worst version of themselves. With Beal out and the scored tied at 92, the game was there for the taking. Instead, largely powered by John Wall, Toronto was outscored 14-6 the rest of the way. Kyle Lowry and C.J. Miles couldn’t get open for three-pointers (and the latter didn’t hit them when he was open). Serge Ibaka and Delon Wright were smothered and shook. Jonas Valanciunas couldn’t stay on the floor. And DeRozan, the team’s best shot creator, was pushed into a 56 percent usage rate in the frame (and 46 percent for the game) in a desperate attempt to get Toronto’s offense going again. Sadly, it did not work.

(When the best solution we can come up with as Raptors fans is to pray for the healthy return of OG Anunoby, a rookie, and Fred VanVleet, an undrafted undersized guard, something has gone wrong, at least in part.)

So what’s changed in this objective reality we’ve created for ourselves? The Raptors, once in complete control of the series, have some soul-searching to do as they return home to Toronto. The Wizards are emboldened, having thoroughly out-muscled the Raps into two bad losses for different reasons. And we, Raptors fans through it all, subjectively and with extreme prejudice, dislike this situation. That’s all the news that’s fit to print. Now, on to Game 5.