The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 125-107 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...
Momentum stalled: The Wizards have shown some progress in recent games, but they simply couldn't keep up with the Raptors on Friday night in a road game against the best team in the Eastern Conference at the moment.
The Raptors, with their bench and their three-point shooting, are a well-oiled machine, capable of dominating in all phases of the game. The Wizards scrapped together some excellent stretches, and even took the lead in the third quarter, only to see Toronto prevail in familiar fashion. They pulled away with a barrage of threes and with their bench outscoring that of the Wizards 59-39.
The Wizards may rebound this season to compete with the top teams in the East. Right now, though, Toronto is in a completely different class.
Too much Kawhi: There is a group of NBA players that because of their size, athleticism and skillset are essentially impossible for the Wizards to match up with defensively. Kawhi Leonard is one of them.
He's too quick and strong for Otto Porter Jr. He is too crafty for Kelly Oubre Jr. He's too fast for Jeff Green and too big for Bradley Beal or John Wall.
For some of the best players in the NBA, the Wizards have a logical option to guard them, at least from a physical standpoint. For Leonard they do not, much like when they go up against LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons and the like.
Leonard scored at all levels. He hit threes and midrange jumpers, destroyed them on the fastbreak and even dropped in some buckets from the post.
DeMar DeRozan is an excellent player, and one the Wizards have had some trouble with in the past. But Leonard is on a different level, and Friday showed how the new-look Raptors are even harder to stop than they were before. The Wizards have no answer for him, at least in man-on-man matchups.
Killer threes: The Wizards continue to find themselves on the wrong end of the three-point battle. The Raptors popped off for 17 threes, a season-high, and they shot 43.6 percent from long range. That was despite a series of open looks that rimmed out in the first half.
The Wizards, meanwhile, couldn't get their own threes to fall. They went just 9-for-46 from the perimeter. Those 46 attempts were a franchise record.
Some of them were forced, but they missed a host of open shots, which has been a problem this season. They entered this game 27th out of 30 teams in wide open three percentage (33.7).
The Raptors did a solid job overall of contesting the Wizards' three-point looks. Washington put up some ugly numbers across the board. Oubre went 0-for-6, Wall 1-for-7, Beal 1-for-3 and Porter 1-for-6. Yuck.
Today's NBA is all about the three-point shot and the Wizards have been awful on both ends of the floor. If they could just improve their threes on offense and defense, this season would probably be very different.
Thomas Bryant made some plays: The Wizards may have found something in second-year center Thomas Bryant.
Bryant started his second straight game and once again gave them a spark on both ends with his energy and athleticism. Bryant had seven points in the first quarter alone.
He stole a pass, tossed it to John Wall and then finished with a dunk in transition. That play showed the speed head coach Scott Brooks has raved about, plus some hustle which the Wizards have been missing this season.
Bryant later blocked a shot off the glass and soon after hit a three. The fact he can hit threes as a center gives the Wizards a new element. Though Ian Mahinmi made one this season, Bryant is a more consistent threat from long range.
Bryant has been giving the Wizards some nice production through two games, enough to make it an interesting call when Howard comes back as to whom is the primary backup center. Mahinmi has the resume and the salary, but Bryant has a higher ceiling on any given night.
That's not bad for a Lakers castoff. Remember, the Wizards got Bryant off waivers after he was let go by L.A. over the summer. Who knows what he will ultimately be, but clearly he has potential and gives them another intriguing prospect to develop.
Wall was off: It's not often we see Wall play as poorly as he did on Friday night. The Wizards' point guard was frustrated all game by Kyle Lowry and the Raptors' suffocating perimeter defense. He was held to 11 points and committed seven turnovers.
The Wizards didn't create enough transition opportunities and Wall is at his best when they're playing fast. Also, he couldn't get any calls. Wall shot zero free throws when he came into this game 15th among NBA players in attempts.
Wall did a good job setting up others. He had 11 dimes and a series of hockey assists. But he couldn't find a rhythm scoring the ball and made way too many unforced errors.
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