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Will the Cavs-Celtics trade involving Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas affect the Wizards' chances at all?

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Will the Cavs-Celtics trade involving Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas affect the Wizards' chances at all?

The Cavaliers and Celtics pulled off one of the biggest NBA trades in years, if not decades, on Tuesday night, one that features two All-Star point guards in Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas, a very good player in Jae Crowder, a 2016 first round pick in Ante Zizic and an unprotected 2018 Nets first round pick that could be the key to Cleveland's dreaded life after LeBron James.

Boston and Cleveland entered this offseason as the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, so naturally this should affect the Wizards and other teams in the Eastern Conference a great deal, right? Maybe not.

In fact, this could have little effect on the rest of the East whatsoever, at least in the short-term. That's because both teams got good value back for 2017-18, but neither made a significant leap when it comes to their chances of winning the title next June.

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Yes, All-Star point guards in Irving and Thomas switched sides, and in Crowder the Cavs now have a physical defender who gives opponents fits on the perimeter. That could help the Cavs in the East and if they match up with the Warriors in the NBA Finals once again.

But the Cavs were already going to be very good and before this trade remained the odds-on favorites to win the East. They now remain the favorites and may have taken a slight step forward, as long as Thomas recovers well from the hip injury that ended his 2016-17 season.

In Irving, the Celtics get a guy with an extra year on his contract. He's four years younger than Thomas and isn't currently dealing with an injury. They have to feel good about that, plus they don't lose much in Crowder, given he plays small forward. Even without Crowder, they could have the most depth at that position in the NBA when you factor in Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown and Marcus Morris. As good as Crowder is, he could have been fighting for minutes in that group.

If the Wizards are to take a step forward or backward in the East, it will likely have nothing to do with this trade. They are counting on improving from within with a core of young players now signed to long-term contracts.

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Overall, the Wizards' odds against the Cavs and Celtics will probably be determined by other things unrelated to this trade, like if LeBron James truly begins his decline or if the Celtics losing Avery Bradley in a previous deal will hurt their ability to stop John Wall and Bradley Beal. 

That last point could be the determining factor in whether the Wizards can leapfrog either the Cavs or Celtics. Boston lost their best answer to what is arguably the best backcourt in the East. 

This trade could, if anything, just make things more interesting for Washington fans. Now the Wizards-Celtics rivalry can center around the debate about which All-Star point guard and former No. 1 pick is better: Wall or Irving? And with the Cavs, the Wizards now have a guy in Crowder who has been a true enemy for years. That matchup just got more intriguing.

The East could be more fun next year due to this trade, but don't expect the odds in Vegas to change much at all because of it.

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Fourth quarter has been an issue for the Wizards in series vs. Raptors

Fourth quarter has been an issue for the Wizards in series vs. Raptors

It was all going so well for the Wizards in Game 5 on Wednesday night until just over four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. That's when their offense went from good enough to win to bad enough to alter a series and put their 2017-18 season on life support.

The Wizards head back to Washington down 3-2 and have only themselves to blame. From the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter all the way until 16.2 seconds remining in the game, they did not score a single point. Meanwhile, the Raptors kept rolling and finished that stretch on a 14-5 run. 

The Wizards missed 11 of their final 15 shots. They stopped moving the ball and moving off the ball and even some of their open shots clanged off the backboard or the rim.

It was a stunning display of offensive ineptitude from a team that was above average in scoring during the regular season. 

"We just missed some shots," guard Bradley Beal said. "We feel like we got some good ones, especially down the stretch."

The Wizards managed 20 points in the fourth quarter and 15 came in the first 7:55 of the frame. That would put them on pace for a solid quarter. If they maintained that course, they may have won the game.

Instead, the fourth quarter amounted to a disaster and it cost them dearly. Teams that lose Game 5 to break a 2-2 tie have a 17.2 percent chance of winning the series, based on the league's history.

Otto Porter went scoreless and took one shot in the fourth quarter of Game 5. John Wall had two of his seven turnovers and shot 2-for-6.

"I had two crucial turnovers trying to split screens in the fourth quarter," Wall said. "Just bad reads on my part."

Beal shot 1-for-6 from the field and 1-for-4 from three. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who shot just 40.3 percent from the field during the regular season, took six shots in the fourth quarter, tied for most on the team. He made two of them and missed all three of his threes.

The Wizards had six of their 18 giveaways in the fourth. Though they outrebounded the Raptors 50-35 for the game, they were outdone 15-12 in the frame.

The Wizards' scoreless drought of three minutes and 49 seconds in the fourth quarter was perhaps foreshadowed by some problems with their offense early in the game. There were plenty of stretches characterized by bad shots, turnovers and a lack of passing.

The Wizards' 21 assists in Game 5 were their fewest in the playoffs so far.

"We need more ball movement," Beal said. "We need more player movement. We were way too stagnant."

The fourth quarter has been an issue all series. Only once, in Game 2, did they outscore the Raptors in the final frame. 

The Wizards rank 14th out of 16 playoff teams in fourth quarter points (23.4/g) and dead-last with a 40.4 field goal percentage and 28.1 three point percentage.

This is a bit of a carryover from the regular season. Only five teams shot worse than the Wizards in the fourth quarter (43.7%) and only five teams allowed more points (26.5) to their opponents.

Washington has had issues closing games all year and throughout this series. Wednesday night was an extreme example and it has them just one loss away from elimination.

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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 in their 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series 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 made 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 down shots 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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