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Raptors not packing it in as Wizards close in on closeout


Raptors not packing it in as Wizards close in on closeout

There is an NBA playoff axiom stating the closeout game in a series is the toughest to win. Both the Wizards and Raptors are trying to make that saying work for their side.

Washington took a commanding 3-0 series lead with Friday's 106-99 victory at the Verizon Center. The Wizards can complete the first best-of-seven sweep in franchise history with a Game 4 win Sunday night.

Toronto can fend off elimination with a victory, but odds of much more are less than slim. No NBA team has ever rallied from an 0-3 hole in 110 prior chances. Despite that bit of nasty history staring them in the face, the Raptors showed for practice Saturday at George Washington' Smith Center.

"We're still going out there to play," said DeMar DeRozan, who scored 32 points in Game 3. "There is still an opportunity for us to keep it going. We all understand that (history). We played hard last night. We played extremely hard last night. They just hit some big shots. Well contested shots. Go to give them credit for knocking them down. Other than that I thought we played great."

Well, great is a stretch - Toronto shot 37.4 percent from the field in the latest loss -, but the Raptors made the Wizards battle until the final seconds. Paul Pierce's 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining essentially salted the game away for Washington. 

"They're going to be even more desperate than they were yesterday," Wizards guard John Wall said of the Raptors following team practice at the Verizon Center. "They fought to the end and made it as tough as they could. Tomorrow is going to be even tougher. They say the closeout game is always hardest. We have to come out with even more focus than we had. We feel like we can play better than we played yesterday."

Toronto certainly feels that way.


"We just can't get it altogether right now," point guard Kyle Lowry said. "Bad time to not all be on the same wavelength. Not just with each other, but foul trouble, defensive woes, offensive woes."

From the point guard's perspective, any offensive difficulties don't stem from the volume shooting approach Toronto's backcourt deployed in Game 3. Lowry and DeRozan scored a combined 47 points, but shot a combined 16 of 51 from the field. 

"I don't mind us taking that many shots cause it was in the flow of the game. At the end of the day, me and DeMar are the scorers," Lowry said. "Lou (Williams) is a scorer. We have to be aggressive."

That trio, including Williams, the NBA's sixth man of the year, torched the Wizards during the regular season and carried the Raptors to a 3-0 regular season sweep. All are shooting under 40 percent from the field this series. Lowry is a woeful 10 of 42 (23.8%) from the field in the series.

Asked postgame why his side went from controlling the matchup to barely hanging on, DeRozan offered a one word explanation: "Playoffs."

Lowry offered a similar, but lengthier response on Saturday.

"Regular season is a completely different animal than in the playoffs," he said. "That's one thing. Two, those guys are playing extremely well. Their guards are playing well. Their bigs are playing defense extremely well. Their game planning has been on point."

That's why the Wizards spent their practice time cleaning up a few things. "We don't want to reinvent the wheel," said Drew Gooden, who had 12 points on three 3-pointers in Game 3. "Keep doing what we're doing to help get these wins."

Toronto knows status quo won't get it done. Players talked about focusing on the next game and only the next game. Lowry copped to a rather human reality: It's not easy looking over the cliff.

"It's hard to ignore, to be honest," Lowry said of the Raptors single elimination scenario. "We just have to go out there and try to get one game. Whatever it takes, just try to get one game. We know closeout games to win the series are always the toughest games for the other team. We got to go out there and make it as hard possible."

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Scott Brooks, Ramon Sessions hoping for best with Tyronn Lue's health issues

USA Today Sports Images

Scott Brooks, Ramon Sessions hoping for best with Tyronn Lue's health issues

As a fellow NBA head coach, Scott Brooks understands what Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers is going through. As his former teammate, Ramon Sessions knows how tough Lue is.

Both members of the Wizards shared their reactions after Monday's practice to the news Lue is stepping away from the Cavs to deal with a health issue. Both expressed hope Lue will not be out long as the NBA continues its trek towards the playoffs.

"All of our thoughts are with him," Brooks said. "You hope that it's nothing serious. Health is the most important [thing]. The game is secondary."


"Prayers out to T-Lue," said Sessions, who played with Lue in Milwaukee. "It's one of those things where you've gotta take care of yourself at the end of the day. Him stepping away is the best thing."

Lue's illness has been a mystery to doctors, according to a statement he released on the Cavaliers' website. He has dealt with chest pains and other symptoms while also struggling to sleep. The hope is that having time off will allow him to get the rest he needs.


Brooks knows firsthand how difficult it is to get sleep during the regular season as a coach.

"You just have to figure out ways to get your rest. Some days are better than others. Sometimes you think after a good win you can have a good night's rest or sometimes it's the opposite. It's just hard to get rest. You're traveling in different timezones. You are emotional after games. You eat late. There are a lot of factors that go into it. We don't have a set schedule every night. I have a good staff and I rely on them," he said.

Lue, 40, will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim. The Cavs happen to be in a tight playoff race with the Wizards and other teams in the Eastern Conference battling for position.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Phil Chenier tells stories ahead of his jersey retirement

Associated Press

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Phil Chenier tells stories ahead of his jersey retirement

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, host Chase Hughes was joined by Bullets/Wizards legend Phil Chenier ahead of his jersey retirement set for this upcoming weekend on March 23.

Chenier looked back on his playing and broadcasting career and told great stories. He also shared some memories of the 1978 championship as the franchise gets ready to honor its 40th anniversary.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!