The pounding that the Wizards gave the Toronto Raptors was reminiscent of some of their previous matchups, except it went the other way around. Tonight, the season series -- and crucial tiebreaker for playoff seeding, if necessary -- is on the line.
Let's take a quick look at what went so right for the Wizards and so wrong for the Raptors in Wednesday's 105-96 result at Air Canada Centre.
It was the Wizards' retooled second unit, led by Bojan Bogdanovic, Jason Smith, Kelly Oubre, Tomas Satoransky and Ian Mahinmi that inspired a 26-3 run in a game that never was close after the midway point of the second quarter.
Markieff Morris on both ends
I’ve addressed in detail how/why the Wizards have long solved their stretch four problem. Morris is back to his earlier season form, post foot and ankle injuries, where he’s not just holding his own but getting the edge. He's gotten the better of Serge Ibaka all season, including his three games with the Orlando Magic.
Mahinmi’s rim protection
“That’s why I’m here. That’s why they brought me here.” OK, that was Paul Pierce and Mahinmi isn’t Paul Pierce. But this rim protection and intimidation, a missing element because Marcin Gortat is a position defender rather than a shot-blocker, is what they had in mind when signing him this offseason. Mahinmi played a season-high 21 minutes vs. Toronto:
Perfect switches on DeMar DeRozan & company
He's an elite scorer despite not being a very good three-point shooter (25.3%), but he makes his living by getting defenders to bite on his variety of ball fakes. It requires discpline to not send DeRozan to the foul like 20 times a game. The Wizards switched on him constantly and kept tall and long defenders like Morris, Oubre and Otto Porter in his face constantly. DeRozan may still get his points (24) but if he's off he'll disrupt Toronto's offense with high volume shooting at lower percentages.
No idea how to cover Bradley Beal
From the get-go, Beal had too much space to operate. He was screened free and went unidentified in transition. The Raptors treated him like Satornasky. Beal was constantly moving and early on ran the offense while John Wall actually was off the ball.
Bogdanovic more than a three-point shooter
Don't be deceived by his 6-for-7 for a season-high 27 points. Bogdanovic is much more than that on the offensive end. He’s not just a catch-and-shoot forward, in the mold of Jared Dudley last year or Trevor Ariza before then. Bogdanovic has more variety offensively so if a defender doesn’t chop his steps and only sells out to take away the three-point look, he’ll be beaten. And he runs perfect routes that get him going full speed curling into the lane. He can finish at the rim and through contact.
Satoransky running the offense
He doesn't have to score to be effective. With Bogdanovic and company making all the shots, it takes the pressure off Satoransky to try to do more than necessary. He just has to get the Wizards in their offense early, survey all of their options and make sure they exploit the best ones. He'll get easy shots to get up his confidence when others consistently make theirs.