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Takeaways from Wizards' loss to Toronto Raptors to drop season series

Takeaways from Wizards' loss to Toronto Raptors to drop season series

With the season series on the line – and the pivotal tiebreaker that could come in handy for the playoffs – the Wizards couldn’t put away another one Friday.

They came from 19 down but fell to the Toronto Raptors 114-106, to lose the series 2-1 and failed to strengthen their hold on the No. 3 spot in the East. Instead, they dropped to fourth based on the tiebreaker.

The Wizards still have tiebreaker edges with one game left vs. the Boston Celtics (2-1) and the Atlanta Hawks (2-1).

John Wall (30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three blocks) and Bradley Beal (26 points, seven rebounds, four assists) led the effort for Washington (36-24). Otto Porter (18 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals) made up for going scorless for the only time this season in Wednesday's matchup. Markieff Morris (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists) only shot 4-for-13. 

Toronto (37-25) was led by DeMar DeRozan (game-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, five assists), Serge Ibaka (14 points, eight rebounds), Norman Powell (21 points) and Cory Joseph (15 points).

Washington opened by shooting just 15 of 46 in the first half which led to the deficit while Toronto made 22 of 37 shots.

Still, they took the lead for a moment with 3:30 left in the third quarter when Porter grabbed and offensive rebound and found Beal spotting up for a three, 72-71.

But the second unit couldn’t give them the spark they had in a 105-96 win on Wednesday, when they sparked a 26-3 run behind Bojan Bogdanovic.

The Wizards cut the deficit to 108-105 on a three-pointer by Wall the final minute, but DeRozan responded with a three over Bogdanovic with 20 seconds left to seal it.

--Beal had a free run in Toronto which looked clueless on how to defend him Wednesday. He got the ball of curls with nothing but space for open looks that got him off to a fast start. Here, they loaded up on Beal and made Wall the scorer. He had 18 in the first half but just two assists. Beal only had one point until he converted his first field goal at 5:38 of the second quarter as the Wizards got the deficit to less than double digits.

--Wall’s ball pressure on Joseph was key in turning the tide. Toronto couldn’t get the ball inside as easily nor get their offense started cleanly. The Raptors shot just 7 of 22 in the third quarter when the deficit was trimmed to 79-78 entering the fourth. Joseph had two of the six turnovers and shot

--Bogdanovic (six points), who had a season-high 27 in Toronto, didn’t have the explosion this time. He didn’t make his first field goal until he banked in a jumper in the fourth. He led a bench that totaled just 14 points. Toronto produced 44 led by Powell.

--Jason Smith’s eight points on 4-for-4 shooting was a vital part of a 26-3 run by the Wizards to turn the previous game into a blowout. He didn’t log a minute Friday.

--In his first appearance since being acquired this week, Brandon Jennings was ineffective with the second unit. He played five minutes in the first half and missed his only shot. Twice, Morris wasn’t expecting passes from him and bobbled the ball. It led to uncomfortable possessions with contested, low percentage shots. Jennings missed a three that led to a transition basket in the fourth and earlier in the quarter he tried to back down Delon Wright (nine points) and had his shot blocked.

--After playing a season-high 21 minutes, Ian Mahinmi played 15 and was crucial to the defense against the small lineups that Raptors coach Dwane Casey deployed. He used a lot of three guards plus two forwards. Mahinmi kept Patrick Patterson (eight points) in front of him and successfully switched onto guards. Starting center Jonas Valanciunas (two points) only played 12 minutes. When the Wizards were successful combating the small-ball lineup of Golden State, they used Morris at the five.

[RELATED: NBA Power Rankings: Movement in the East]

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Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

The NBA is so perimeter-oriented these days that often the first statistic cited for a player leaving college for the pros is three-point percentage, regardless of the position. Even big men are expected to knock down threes, for if they can't then there is less space on the floor and like Neil deGrasse Tyson, NBA teams love them some space.

Three-point shooting, however, is not a strength for Wizards' first round pick Troy Brown, Jr., at least not yet. In his lone season at Oregon, he shot just 29.1 percent from long range. Brown can play multiple positions, from point guard to small forward, and shooting is important to be successful at all of them.

Brown and the Wizards, though, are not concerned about his potential to develop an outside shot in the long-term. Brown addressed the issue after his pre-draft workout with the Wizards earlier this month and cited a very specific reason not to worry.

"I don’t think it was my mechanics. I think it was my shot selection this year," he said. "Some of the shots I was taking weren’t very good. It’s about repetition, getting in the gym and putting up shots. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job showcasing that and I feel like a lot of teams are impressed with my shooting."

Brown knocked down plenty of shots in his workout with the Wizards. That helped convince them to select him at No. 15, as they see a guy with potential to become at least a serviceable shooter from long range.

“We’re very confident that we can improve it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "From what I understand, he’s very coachable and he wants to get better. That’s a big part of the step in developing a young player."

Team president Ernie Grunfeld seemed to agree with Brown's personal assessment, that it's not a problem with his mechanics per se. Surely they will tinker with his shot once he gets in their development system. But they don't see the need for a dramatic overhaul.

"He's got a nice stroke," Grunfeld said. "Obviously, when you're a freshman coming up to another level there are different things you have to work on, and we have a really good player development staff and we're going to get him to work right away."

Players of Brown's ilk developing an outside shot at the NBA level is more common than many may think. Just because someone isn't a good shooter in one college season, doesn't mean they will never be able to develop the skill once they mature as a man and a basketball player.

Though Brown's scoring repertoire may seem limited, plenty of players have gone from rags to riches offensively at the professional level. Brown may have to begin his NBA career helping in other ways, like on the defensive end, before his scoring abilities round into form.

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler could be seen as a best-case scenario example. He made only 36 threes in three years in college and shot just 35.3 percent as a junior. When he was Brown's age, as a freshman he averaged only 5.6 points, and as an NBA rookie he shot just 18.2 percent from three.

Through years of hard work, Butler turned himself into a 20-point scorer with a respectable outside shot, including a career-beset 37.8 percent from three in the 2014-15 season. Some guys take more time than others. At only 18 years old, Brown has plenty of time to figure it out.


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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”


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