All along as Kelly Oubre, Jr. wilted from the three-point line down the stretch of the regular season, his head coach Scott Brooks would deflect the attention to other areas of his game. Brooks was sending a message to his young forward that he can still make an impact in other ways, and as long as he did Brooks would overlook the shooting woes.
Through four games in the Wizards-Raptors series, Brooks' mantra with Oubre has proven prescient. Just like the Wizards as a team, Oubre has his swagger back and for him it's had nothing to do with hitting threes.
Oubre was a sparkplug in both Games 3 and 4 as the Wizards earned consecutive victories to send the series back to Toronto locked at 2-2. Game 4 on Sunday night well illustrated just how effective Oubre can be even if he isn't scoring.
Oubre had 10 points and shot 2-for-6 from the field, a modest scoring night. He did everything else well.
Oubre drew two offensive fouls, notched two steals, grabbed give rebounds and dished two assists. He was aggressive attacking the rim and earned seven free throw attempts as his reward.
Oubre was personally most pleased with forcing turnovers. In true Oubre fashion, he offered a unique explanation why.
"Yeah, man. You got to be different. I'm just trying to be different, man. Trying to get extra possessions for my teammates," he said.
Oubre's defense was essential in Game 4. He helped hold DeMar DeRozan to just 10 field goals on 29 attempts. Though DeRozan ended up with 35 points, he needed to attempt 18 free throws to get there.
The Wizards can live with DeRozan scoring a lot of points, even 35, if he shoots 34.5 percent from the field. He also had four turnovers.
Oubre's most important moments came in the final five minutes of the game. Star shooting guard Bradley Beal fouled out with 4:58 remaining and Brooks had nowhere else to turn. Tomas Satoransky's role has been diminished in the playoffs, Ty Lawson gives up size on defense and Jodie Meeks, the primary backup shooting guard for most of the season, is suspended.
Oubre was contributing all night, so Brooks put him in there alongside John Wall, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. It worked.
Wall scored eight of their final 14 points as the Wizards closed out the victory, but Oubre did several things to help seal it. He hit three free throws, grabbed a rebound and stole the ball from Kyle Lowry with 12 seconds to go and dribbled it out.
Two of Oubre's free throws came with 22.5 seconds left and they extended the Wizards' lead to 104-96. He was fouled in the final second of the shot clock and the Raptors called a timeout, perhaps hoping to ice him.
After the team gathered, Oubre walked to halfcourt to wait for the break to end. Veteran Jason Smith, who did not appear in the game, walked out to chat with him.
Smith stood next to Oubre and gave him an extended pep talk. He sensed the moment and knew Oubre needed to calm his nerves.
Smith led Oubre through deep breaths to slow everything down. Oubre nodded his head and followed along, then he knocked down both shots.
"I've been there before," Smith said. "I've gotta stay active and impact the game any way I can. That was my little tidbit."
Oubre was clutch for the Wizards when they needed him most and got some sage advice as he helped the Wizards push over the finish line.
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MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:
BEAL FOULING OUT NEARLY CHANGED THE ENTIRE SERIES
WALL WAS DUNKING ALL OVER RAPTORS BIG MEN
MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM GAME 4 WIN