All three meetings between the Wizards and Toronto Raptors, who they deposed in the first round of last season's playoffs, have come down to the wire -- except for what took place at Verizon Center in front of 17,064 on Friday.
The Wizards (15-19) lost their third game in a row -- and third in as many games with Toronto -- as they scored just 14 third-quarter points and committed 23 turnovers to lose control, 97-88.
John Wall (21 points, four assists, three blocks) looked more like the player he was in November than the Eastern Conference player of the month for December. Otto Porter (16 points), Marcin Gortat (12 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) for his 16th double-double and Ramon Sessions (14 points) were the only Wizards to reach double figures.
DeMar DeRozan had a season-high 35 points for Toronto (23-15). His previous high of 34 came against the Wizards, too. Kyle Lowry had 21 points and 10 rebounds.
The offensive outburst that the Wizards had in a 39-point third quarter vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers was absent. The Raptors broke open the game with a 16-4 run to enter the fourth ahead 73-61.
- DeRozan, who went 15-for-15 from the foul line in a 94-91 on Dec. 30, shot 12-for-13 from the stripe. His shot selection leaves a lot to be desired but he knows how to force whistles by creating contact. But this game turned because of the Raptors' defense. Bismack Biyombo made the Wizards second-guess and outright freeze when they got inside the paint. Biyombo (0 points, six rebounds, four blocks) was such a game-changer that Jonas Valanciunas played sparingly afterwards.
- After seven turnovers in Wednesday's loss, Wall had four in the first half alone en route to seven again. One of them was a bullet to Porter cutting on a fast break that was impossible to corral. Then when Wall started to deliver more catchable passes, the Wizards had gotten the turnover bug and were fumbling everything. They had 12 first-half turnovers that produced 12 points for Toronto. Neither team was very responsible with the ball. The Wizards had 23 giveaways and the Raptors, who got by because of better defense, had 19.
- Gortat's play will be overshadowed by a modest stat line and yet another loss. But if anyone is complaining about his play lately they're just not watching. Forget what a boxscore shows. His rotations and help have been almost flawless. In this one, DeRozan shot 5 of 14 in the first half because, in part, of Gortat's challenging over the top to alter several of his shots. On consecutive plays he forced DeRozan into an airball at the rim and changed the arc on a floater that went off the back rim. After Wall had his shot blocked, it was Gortat who hustled back and caused Lowry to change his mind at the last minute and make a bad pass for a turnover. Gortat fought Jonas Valanciunas for position before the catch in the low post, forced him off his spot and to turn away from the basket on the shot. When it went up and Gortat contested, Valanciunas barely drew iron. Lowry got into the lane early in the third quarter and it was Gortat's help by going vertical that caused him to lose the ball and produce a transition basket for Temple. The rim can be protected by good position defense (see the Boston Celtics). It doesn't require Gortat to be Hassan Whiteside.
- Rookie Kelly Oubre has seen his time decrease, but he was inserted for the first time with 2:19 left so Porter wouldn't pick up his third foul. Exactly a minute later with the Wizards desperate for a basket, Oubre spotted up for his only shot and made the three-pointer for their final points before the break. The Wizards went into the locker room tied at 47 but it's this sort of efficiency in spot minutes that could get Oubre time again. Right now, his chances are limited.
- Drew Gooden returned to play for the second time since Nov. 17 and made his first field goal since Oct. 31, a three-pointer, but that was the extent of his impact being on a minutes restriction (10). Nene, playing his second game in a row, had turnover on his first possession and only could play 13 minutes because he's on a restriction, too. His physicality helped in the first half on Biyombo who didn't have a rebound in eight minutes.
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