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Five observations from Wizards' 125-107 loss to the Toronto Raptors, a game decided entirely by threes

Five observations from Wizards' 125-107 loss to the Toronto Raptors, a game decided entirely by threes

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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Troy Brown, Jr. shares what life is like for Wizards inside the NBA Bubble

Troy Brown, Jr. shares what life is like for Wizards inside the NBA Bubble

Celebrating a 21st birthday usually requires a party with family and friends to commemorate the first (legal) taste of alcohol. 

For Wizards guard Troy Brown, Jr., a simple team dinner with a glass of wine did the trick. 

“Ian (Mahinmi) got me some wine, so we got to celebrate it,” Brown said on the Bleav in Wizards podcast. “They took me out to dinner and stuff and he got me some wine. So my man looked out for me for sure.” 

For Brown, his love for the game of basketball makes up for not getting a real chance to bring in the big occasion with a proper party. Brown said he was used to the sacrifice of giving up birthday parties for summer tournaments anyways. 

Still, given the current conditions under the pandemic, it would have been impossible for Brown to celebrate his July 28th birthday at the bar or with a large gathering even if the Wizards season was already completed. Instead, Brown celebrated with growth. 

Brown told Bullets Forever’s Matt Modderno and former Wizard fan favorite Larry Hughes his mindset going into the Orlando bubble was all about getting better and showing everyone what he could do. With Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans opting out, Brown’s role on offense increased and he’s shown flashes that he can be a player for the future with Washington -- even if the Wizards have been eliminated from the postseason and are without a win so far. 

The number of minutes hasn’t been the only thing to increase in Brown’s life, however. Premiering his video series titled “Ballin’ in the Bubble,” Brown’s YouTube page has soared to over eight thousand subscribers looking for an inside glimpse of life in the bubble. 

In each vlog, it’s easy to see Brown having fun with his teammates while still working hard to improve his game. The inside looks give Wizards fans access into what kind of personalities make up the locker room, making it that much more enjoyable to cheer them on.  

“We’re athletes and everybody always wants to know what we are doing on the court,” said Brown. “But off the court, as people, to be able to show our personalities and even to be able to show my teammates on that type of platform whether or not they’re just being themselves and they’re not just doing it because I’m holding a camera. It’s definitely dope and the opportunity has been great.”

Brown said when he was tweeting the idea of starting a vlog inside the bubble, the Wizards PR team partnered with him to edit his footage and make an appealing end product. Quarantined in those Disney hotels, this gives Brown more time to focus on his game. 

Despite the five straight defeats, Brown and his young teammates are focusing on long-term player growth as opposed to getting frustrated with the results. 

“I would say for me personally, my motivation is just the fact that I want to be a great player,” Brown said. “That’s the only motivation I need...From a team perspective, we’re really young and we have a lot of guys that just want to be great players. We know the odds are against us, but at the end of the day we want to prove people wrong.”

Whether it’s playing as a pass-first point guard or at the three, coach Scott Brooks is using their time in Orlando to figure out how to best utilize Brown’s skillset to win next year. Brown said veteran leaders like Mahinmi and Ish Smith have helped the younger guys focus on continued improvement in that respect. 

Starting the year off as a 3-and-D small forward, Brown’s role has evolved into a playmaker in recent weeks. Hughes gave Brown some advice on how to keep that going. 

“I would just encourage you to not hesitate, and don’t overthink the situation or play,” said Hughes. “Your talent is what the team needs, so now it’s time to hone in on that skill of figuring out how to play with Brad and John even though you like to handle the ball.”

Hughes, a former first-team All-Defensive member in 2005 when he finished the season leading the league in steals as a Wizard, told Brown that his defense will help him fit in with the likes of Wall and Beal next season. After a solid defensive possession, Hughes said if he’s able to get the rebound then he should continue to have that license to push the tempo. 

RELATED: Brown’s role as a playmaker doesn’t have to change when Wall returns

Sporting a stat line consisting of 10.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 2.5 APG, Brown has shown repeated growth all throughout the season. Often asked to cover the opposition’s best player, Brown doesn’t limit his growth to the lines on the court.  

As Brown continues to document the end of the Wizards season in Orlando, he - along with his teammates - continues to get more likable. 

“It’s one of those things that nobody knows who I am as a person. They just know Troy Brown the basketball player, they don’t know me as a person and how I act,” Brown said. “This vlog was a way to show everybody that I’m more than a basketball player. People think of us as these commodities, but we’re regular people just like everyone else.”

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Damian Lillard and Paul George trade jabs on social media after Blazers-Clippers

Damian Lillard and Paul George trade jabs on social media after Blazers-Clippers

It's well documented that two of the NBA's biggest stars, Damian Lillard and Paul George, are not the best of friends.

Last May, Lillard's Blazers eliminated George's Thunder in five games, with the Portland star hitting a 37-foot game-winner over George to win the series. After Lillard hit the shot, he waved goodbye to the Oklahoma City bench as his teammates mobbed him in celebration. Following the game, George called Lillard's bucket a "bad shot." Lillard balked at that claim, asking how it was a bad shot if the ball went in.  

Nearly 15 months later, Lillard and George's beef has returned. On Saturday, Lillard had the opportunity to give Portland the lead over George's Clippers with just 15 seconds remaining. However, with the Blazers down just one, Lillard missed both free throws. Los Angeles would hold on and win, with both George and Clippers guard Patrick Beverley mocking Lillard from the bench.

After the game, Lillard was asked about Beverly and co.'s antics, and the Blazers star had quite the response.

"Asking me about Patrick Beverley, who, I sent him home before at the end of the game," Lillard said. "Paul George just got sent home by me last year. So, they know."

Bleacher Report reposted Lillard's quote on Instagram, which got both Beverley and George to respond. Beverley joked "Cancun on three," referencing that Portland's season would be over soon. George directly responded to Lillard's comment about sending him home, saying "And you getting sent home this year. Respect."

Of course, Dame wasn't going to let either one of them get the last word. Lillard responded to George's comment, calling out the star for continuing to change teams.

George, of course, asked to be traded to the Clippers this offseason to pair with star Kawhi Leonard just one summer after signing a long-term extension with the Thunder. Meanwhile, Lillard has spent his whole career thus far in Portland, turning the Blazers from an annual lottery team to a contender in the West.

George responded once more, saying he achieved more success with his first team, the Pacers, than Lillard has in Portland. That can be debated, but neither star has led their team any further than the conference finals.

The whole conversation was captured by many and has been reposted all over social media.

The two teams won't meet again this season unless they matchup down the road in the playoffs. The Clippers currently sit in the No. 2 spot in the West, while Portland is on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.

However, the Blazers have looked as good as any team in the bubble thus far, in large part due to the return of big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. In a year where seeding doesn't really matter, there's always a chance these two teams play each other once again. And what a sight that will be if it happens.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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