• Josh Kamuhanda

Washington Summarizes their Season in Final Bout


WASHINGTON—If you missed much of the season, and wanted a quick synopsis, game six would provide just that. High expectations, marred by metaphorical and literal self-inflicting wounds.

“I said it before…they’re not your typical 8th seed. They are a well-coached, well-oiled machine.”

That’s what Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey had to say after Friday night’s win over Washington bought their ticket to the second round of the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs. Bradley Beal led the way for Washington, as he has all season, scoring a game-high 32 points. The Raptors’ Kyle Lowry finished with 24 points, but their real production came from the bench.

The NBA’s most productive second unit was the bread winner last night. They outscored the Wizards’ bench 34-20 for the game and outplayed the Wizards’ team in the fourth, 17-14 – allowing their stars to kick their feet up and enjoy their court-side seats.

“Tonight, our bench did a great job of just complementing,” said Lowry. “I played 31 minutes [and] DeMar [DeRozan] played 33. In a playoff game, a closeout game, you’ll never expect your guys, your starting backcourt to do that.”

The credit would go to Toronto’s Fred VanVleet. After missing all but three minutes in the first five games, the second-year point guard showcased his play-making, IQ and defense as soon as he checked in. He didn’t fill the stat-sheet, but he brought the intangibles they needed to steal a win in Washington.

A win…in Washingtonin late April?

I had to pinch myself, too. The Wizards hadn’t lost a home playoff game since May 2015. For much of game six, it looked like the hardwood at Capitol One Arena would remain unblemished. With a crowd as electric as it’s been all year, the home team started hot, cashing a triplet of three-pointers and opening the gate with a 18-6 run. The Canadians did come to play, and the first quarter ended with the home team on top, 30-20.

Toronto clawed themselves out of that hole, and Washington carried a five-point lead entering the fourth, but that quarter was drenched with a deluge of bad habits that has haunted the Wizards all season: stagnant, isolation offense and disingenuous defense. Washington lost the last quarter of the season 29-14, the cherry that topped a frustrating year.

Hours before the game, the Wizards learned that sharpshooter Otto Porter would miss the rest of the playoffs after undergoing a procedure on his injured leg. He was shooting well for the series (49% from the floor, 42% from three), but was neither aggressive nor mobile, averaging just 10 points (14.7 in the regular season) and taking eight shots a game (11.5). Kelly Oubre, who also struggled in the series (9.3 PPG, 38% from the floor, 21% from three), started in his place. Oubre shot just 1-for-7 from the field and finished with more fouls (4) than points (3). Still, the Wizards employ no scapegoat.

“You can’t sit there and pout about it,” said Beal, who shot 60% from three on the night. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for us.”

Quite frankly, those words can illustrate hindsight’s perspective on the season.

For a team that took the number one seed in last year’s Eastern Conference to seven games and swept this year’s one seed the last time they met, a first-round exit must sting like crackling oil. Not only did they lose on home-hardwood, but they lost to a team that was largely considered an even match before the season.

Wall’s 41-game absence in the regular season surely didn’t help the big picture.

“For me, its upsetting,” said Wall, after his 23-point, eight-assist night. “For these guys to compete the way they did and for Brad [Beal] to have an MVP-type season for our team…is big-time for us.”

I learned in middle school that energy cannot be destroyed. As the game clock approached double zeros, the crowd’s electricity converted into vociferous emotion:

“FI-RE ER-NIE!”

We didn’t get to interview them post-game, but I’m sure their points were valid. It’ll be a long summer in Chinatown.

#Playoffs #KyleLowry #DeMarDeRozan #Washington #NBA #Toronto #Wizards #Raptors #JohnWall #BradleyBeal #VanVleet #ErnieGrunfield #OttoPotterJr #Game6

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