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Warriors came away from 'playoff game' with renewed respect for the Wizards

Warriors came away from 'playoff game' with renewed respect for the Wizards

The Wizards are a very different team this year than in the past. The Warriors learned that the hard way Tuesday night in a 112-108 upset loss at Verizon Center.

Not only does Washington have a better record, but also opponents view the team and its players with significantly more respect. You could hear it in Golden State's comments to the media after the game. 

The Warriors kept circling a common theme: that game versus the Wizards felt like the playoffs. And perhaps more remarkably, the 2015 NBA Champions seemed to feel some honor in almost pulling off a comeback against Washington. 

Let me run this back for you: The Warriors, who appeared in the last two NBA Finals and won 73 regular-season games last year, were impressed with how they hung with the Wizards. The super team of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson found positives in the loss. 

“It was a hell of a basketball game. Fans got their money’s worth," Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. "It was great competition and I liked how we came back after we were thrown for a loop early on.” 

Shaun Livingston straight-up called the contest a "playoff game."

"The way that [the Wizards] jumped on us. They’re a talented team, everybody kind of knows that and I think the way that we responded and kind of grinded the game out," he said. 

Curry, last year's MVP, felt the same despite missing an open shot that could have tied the game in the last three seconds. 

"We played with so much intensity to get ourselves back in the game," he said. "You know to get the last shot, obviously it did not go our way there. I missed that shot. It could have gone a different way, but that is playoff-type basketball. It was intense, a good test for us the way our games have been going the last few weeks.”

Wizards players have long insisted that they don't get enough respect in the NBA, whether it's from officials or television schedules. In a way, a victory over the top team in the NBA should be enough vindication, but there's something sweet – and perhaps significant – about the vocal admiration of your most elite peers. 

When asked what they see in this year's Wizards team, Warriors players were quick to point out how much they've improved. 

Though not known for heaping praise on opponents, Green noted what a big contribition shooting guard Bradley Beal has made this season. 

"I think before, they’ve had good players and they’ll show that in stretches and in spurts. But they’re a good team now," Green said. "And then Brad [Beal] is healthy. I think that’s been a huge thing over the last couple years. Brad goes out, you’re missing 20-some points off the floor and that’s hard to overcome. So with them having a healthy team, they’ve made a couple trades and brought in a few guys that’s helping them out a lot, but they’re just a better team.” 

Curry admitted that he had a "tough" matchup with John Wall because of all the ways the Wizards star can impact a game. "He’s always on the attack and you gotta play well to win that match up. And he did it a different way tonight," Curry said.

"Neither one of us shot particularly well, but they ran a lot of good sets and he was great at making the right decisions. That back-and-forth is pretty fun so, you know, a lot of talent on that floor all the way around." 

But Curry was also impressed with Washington's confidence in its identity. So much that he slipped in a warning to whomever faces the Wizards in the playoffs. 

"They are healthy and they have a good rhythm, and they know who they are, and how they are going to be successful. They have individual guys playing well and it shows in the win column, so they are going to be tough out in the playoffs and, we’ll see what they do.”

Here's hoping the Warriors' words get back to the Wizards... and whomever makes the national TV schedules. 

MORE WIZARDS: Markieff Morris drops the quote of the year

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Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

The Toronto Raptors' best player has become a serious problem for the Washington Wizards, as they now face a 3-2 series deficit and the bleak reality that one more loss means their season is over.

DeMar DeRozan, who began this first round series with a modest 17 points in Game 1, has since raised his game to a new level to beyond even what we have seen in the past. In Games 2-5, DeRozan has averaged 31.8 points, including his 32-game outburst in Game 5 that tilted the series in Toronto's favor.

DeRozan is averaging 28.8 points through five games against the Raptors. That's up considerably from his 22.5-point career playoff average.

DeRozan scored his 32 points in Game 5 with efficiency. He shot 12-for-24 from the field and even made three of his four shots from three.

He didn't even need the free throw line like he normally does. DeRozan shot six free throws, less than his regular season average.

The Wizards are having trouble with DeRozan particularly in the first half. DeRozan is averaging 14.8 first-half points during the playoffs, second only to LeBron James. 

DeRozan had 20 points by halftime in Game 5.

"DeMar was in his element tonight," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He got it going early. It was kind of hard to shut him off."

The Wizards are paying for disrespecting DeRozan's three-point shot. He shot just 31.2 percent from long range in the regular season, but is shooting threes at a 45.5 percent clip in the playoffs.

If DeRozan is knocking them down from outside, his offensive game is as complete as just about anyone in the NBA. He has shown in this series an impressive ability to not only get to the rim, but finish through contact or draw fouls.

DeRozan does a good job of maintaining body and ball control going straight up against Wizards' big men and is often rewarded by the referees. He shot a playoff career-high 18 free throws in Game 4.

The Wizards are actually doing a decent job of taking away his midrange shots, which usually account for much of his points. Though DeRozan is hitting an impressive 66.7 percent from 5-to-9 feet, up from his season clip of 47.6, his numbers are down from further out.

DeRozan is shooting 40 percent from 10-to-14 feet out, down from 41.5 percent in the regular season, and just 28.6 percent from 15-to-19 feet, down from 43.7.

DeRozan is hurting the Wizards from long range and within nine feet of the rim. He is taking what the Wizards are giving him and Washington has to adjust.

"We’ve gotta pretty much get it out of [his] hands. Make sure we take care of everybody else," Oubre said.

The Wizards should look to how the defended him in Game 4 as a good example of how to limit his impact. DeRozan had 35 points, but required 29 shots from the field and 18 free throws to get there. 

Washington forced DeRozan into an inefficient night and forced others to try to beat them. The result was the Wizards' best defensive game overall, as the Raptors scored a series-low 98 points.

DeRozan isn't the only defensive concern for the Wizards as they look ahead to Game 6 on Friday. Backup point guard Delon Wright scored 18 points for the second time this series and Toronto hit 11 threes in the game.

The Wizards held the Raptors to just seven threes in Game 4 and it was no coincidence they won that game. They have to lock down the perimeter and, as this series has shown, that includes DeRozan even though he isn't known for making threes.

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Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 108-98 in Game 5 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Ice cold: When the Wizards needed it most, their offense failed them. With John Wall running the show, they can traditionally score with the best of them. But from the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter, they went scoreless for a stretch of three minutes and 49 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Raptors converted turnovers into points to close the game on a 14-5 run. The Wizards shot brick after brick from long range and missed 11 of their last 15 shots. It was a shocking collapse in a game that had been going well for the Wizards.

By beating the Wizards in Game 5, the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead which historically means they have nearly an 83 percent chance of winning the series. Those aren't good odds for the Wizards, who can look at one area of the court to blame.

The Wizards made only five threes on 26 attempts. The Raptors, conversely, went 11-for-25 (44%) from the perimeter. The Wizards' five threes were their fewest in a game since Jan. 12.

DeRozan was a killer: As has been the case this entire series, DeMar DeRozan led the charge for Toronto. The perennial All-Star came out on fire with 20 points in the first half alone.

This time, it wasn't just free throws. He was 4-for-4 at the half, but 7-for-13 from the field and 2-for-2 from three. Usually, threes aren't his game.

DeRozan kept it up in the second half to score 32 points on 12-of-24 from the field. That's a pretty efficient night.

Otto looked a bit hurt: Otto Porter, who was held to nine points and four rebounds, didn't appear to be moving very well. He was running around with a limp, which suggests his right lower leg strain is still bothering him.

Head coach Scott Brooks said last week that Porter is 100 percent, but that doesn't seem like the case, unless there was some sort of setback in the time since. Porter, however, is such a smart player and such a good shooter that he can still make the most of his time on the court.

Solid start: The Wizards aren't used to playing well in the first quarter this series. They entered Game 5 with an average deficit of -7.2 points in the first quarter. In this game, however, they led by one point after one.

That was thanks to a buzzer-beater by John Wall (26 points, nine assists, nine rebounds). Ian Mahinmi got the offensive rebound and it set up Wall for a last-second shot. He got to one of his spots and sent it in:

It was just the second time in five games this series that the Wizards have been leading after one. The other time was Game 3, when the Wizards beat the Raptors handily to earn their first win.

The Wizards, though, couldn't finish. They also couldn't protect the ball. At least Wall couldn't, as he committed seven turnovers, one short of his playoff career-high.

Backup PGs: The Raptors again played without point guard Fred VanVleet, their best bench player and a guy who is arguably one of the best backup point guards in basketball. The loss has been evident for the most part, despite his replacement Delon Wright doing a solid job, including with 18 points in Game 5.

On Wednesday, Washington's backup point guard also shined. Despite not playing a single game during the regular season, Ty Lawson continues to make smart plays and create scoring opportunities for others.

He had four assists in this game and made one of the best plays of the night. Check out this move he put on to set up Ian Mahinmi:

And this dude was playing in China like two weeks ago? If he keeps this up, there will be an easy case to make that the Wizards should re-sign him for next season.

Clearly, they want Tomas Satoransky to play more off the ball and the coaching staff hasn't gained full trust in him. Lawson and Satoransky could make a solid reserve backcourt if they have some time to develop some chemistry.

Up next: The Wizards and Raptors are back at it on Friday night in Washington for Game 6. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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