Breaking it Down: The Wizards score 13 times in 15 trips

Title: Breaking it Down: The Wizards score 13 times in 15 trips
Date: April 22, 2015
Original Source: Raptors Republic
Synopsis: This article painfully looked, play by play, at the Wizards picking apart the Raptors in Game 2 of their series.

I entered Game 2 with optimism.

There have been times during the course of this season when that’s been difficult for me, even if it was the best regular season in franchise history. After a torrid start, the Raptors spent months playing largely uninspiring ball, with an ineffective defense and an effective yet unattractive and cognitive dissonance-inducing offense. They were never as bad as I felt them to be at times, but I was positive they were never as good as others had made them out to be.

But with the playoffs came a sort of reset button. Expectations were largely for the regular season, and with an 82-game lens, my Bayesian priors were all but confirmed – I had predicted them for 47 wins, close enough, even if the sequencing of those wins would suggest they were never at any one point a 47-win team. They were what I thought they were, which was a team that should have a good chance at winning a playoff round for just the second time in franchise history.

In the Washington Wizards, the Raptors had a similarly flawed and inconsistent opponent with roughly the same overall talent level. Even after an ugly, narrow Game 1 loss, I remained optimistic. The Raptors had played about as poor an offensive game as they could play and actually looked to have a decent idea of how to handle non-Paul Pierce members of the Wizards roster on the other end. I stood by my Raptors-in-7 prediction and was fairly confident they’d rebound with a strong Game 2.

With 8:34 to play in the second quarter on Tuesday, my optimism remained. Seven minutes and 38 seconds later, it was gone completely.

The Raptors turned a 35-31 lead into a 58-49 deficit, giving up 13 scores and 27 points over 15 possessions, a woeful showing in a 27-14 Wizards run that has effectively ended Toronto’s season.

Sure, the Raptors will probably still win a game, maybe two, maybe even three. But teams don’t come back from coughing up both home games to open a series. What’s worse, Tuesday was one of their worst overall efforts of the season until very late, with the defense essentially surrendering to the will of John Wall.

Because I am an insane person, I made GIFs of 12 of the 15 possessions in that stretch, which began with Pierce entering the game as a power forward and concluded when he was replaced with a big late in the half. That’s not to say Pierce was the driving force in the run – he certainly helped, but it was a team effort. James Johnson even got a chance to play, but Dwane Casey curiously had him guard other players than, you know, the guy he was signed to guard (not that he made a difference, anyway – the Raps were a -14 in his seven minutes).

I strongly recommend you close the browser now. What follows is depressing.

8:34 – It begins
8:14 – Pierce misses three, Porter gets outback
The Raptors play the first one-four pick-and-roll with Pierce well enough, and DeMar DeRozan is able to get enough of a hand in Pierce’s face to force a miss from outside. Unfortunately, Patrick Patterson – rightfully moved on to Otto Porter Jr. rather than Pierce with the Raptors keeping two bigs on the floor – boxes out Amir Johnson’s man (hey, at least he grabbed someone), and Johnson doesn’t take care of Porter for his frontcourt mate. Porter gets one of his four offensive rebounds and the outback.

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7:18 – Porter fouled, splits free throws
No GIF here, just your run-of-the-mill foul on an offensive player who really shouldn’t be causing a defense the number of problems the admittedly improved Porter is.

6:43 – Pierce nails triple
Before this GIF starts, the Raptors actually played solid defense for the first 10 seconds of the possession. Pierce loses the handle and in the ensuing loose-ball chaos, sneaks out of the sightline of DeRozan. When Pierce gets the look in the corner, DeRozan can’t find him and Johnson is too far away to capably close out.

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6:15 – Nene scores
There’s all sorts of bad here. DeRozan is stuck on Nene coming back late in transition, and he and Lou Williams play the pick-and-roll poorly, leaving Nene a clean lane to the rim. Johnson is (appropriately) too passive helping off of Bradley Beal in the corner, and Greivis Vasquez shows help from the weak corner just soon enough to duck out of the way of a Nene dunk.

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5:43 – Wall misses layup
No GIF needed here, as Wall misses a transition layup attempt thanks to a nice defensive effort from Amir Johnson.

5:26 – Beal gets a transition layup
Nice effort, Vasquez. At least Johnson put his arms in the air.

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4:54 – Beal gets another layup
What do you even do with this if you’re Casey? Vasquez is on the wrong side of his man to start the inbound play and is then caught completely oblivious when Beal makes a quick move for the basket. And as a bonus, look at Williams guarding the entry pass.

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4:17 – Pierce sets up Beal for three
This is a great example of the problems Pierce can cause as a small four, even if he didn’t at all deserve the assist he’s credited with. Pierce flips the ball to Beal and immediately sets a screen in what’s more or less a hand-off. DeRozan shows on Beal but panics about leaving Pierce and leaves Beal too soon, before Ross can get back into position after an attempt at going both over and under a screen.

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4:00 – Wall gets a layup
I’ll take Wall 1-on-2 in transition against just about any pair of defenders, but if you’re going to abandon a shooter to help, at least provide some resistance.

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3:39 – Wall “outraces” Raptors for a dunk
Nice effort, Vasquez.

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3:00 – It’s Gortat’s turn for a layup
Wall is absolutely ridiculous. The Raptors play the initial pick-and-roll well, so Wall just drives and spins around Vasquez. Jonas Valanciunas provides the help but leaves his feet too early, and Wall’s able to drop it off for an easy Marcin Gortat bucket.

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2:39 – Pierce hacked in transition
No GIF necessary, because we’ve all seen Terrence Ross flying out of control for a chasedown block when the shooter hasn’t even left his feet yet before.

2:14 – Nene gets back in on the action
Much as he’s physically one of the best options on Wall, here’s a good example of why Ross isn’t mentally ready to guard point guards. He and Valanciunas appear to be playing a different scheme here, with Valanciunas committing immediately to preventing a Wall drive, while Ross takes the long route around Nene’s screen to chase Wall. That means absolutely nobody has tagged Nene, and with the weak side overloaded, nobody’s around to help. Valanciunas makes a nice effort to contest the shot, but that’s about as easy a look as Nene’s going to get.

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1:37 – Wall hits a long two
Pierce’s draw in the pick-and-roll is on display once again, as Vasquez and James Johnson are both more concerned with a pass to Pierce than a jumper from Wall after they’ve prevented a drive. That’s the gameplan – you’ll take Wall shooting long twos over Wall drives or dishes to Pierce all day – but that’s a bit too much time and space.

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1:09 – Beal puts us out of our misery
This is just a terrific play from Beal.

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0:56 – Mercifully, the run ends.

Final Tally
7:38 of play
15 possessions
27 points
13 scores
27-14 Wizards run

I’m really trying to keep the faith for Game 3 on Friday in D.C. It’s difficult, but I’m notquite ready to write the season off yet. They better come out and play…well, a lot better than this. It’s still too cold for draft talk.

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