Wizards head coach Scott Brooks took the podium in Toronto following his team's Game 1 loss to the Raptors and peered down at the box score, still processing the 0-1 deficit his team now holds. As he described the reasons for their defeat, Brooks noted how the game was even in nearly every statistical category, including free throws.
Some fans and perhaps even the players may say otherwise, but there is no statistical case to make that this game was won or lost at the free throw line. The Wizards shot 18 free throws and the Raptors had 20. Both teams made 16 apiece. The Wizards were called for 21 fouls and the Raptors 18.
The referees let the players play and swallowed their whistles. It was classic, physical playoff baskeball and both teams were affected equally.
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The one outlier on that box score was three-point shooting and Brooks offered no excuses, even with starting small forward Otto Porter nursing a right calf injury. Brooks believes his players, healthy or not, should have known better.
One look at the Raptors' team stats should indicate threes are a major key in this series. Toronto is top four in the NBA in both three-point makes and attempts.
The Wizards had to know it was coming, yet they found no answer through 48 minutes that saw Toronto drop in a playoff franchise record 16 makes from long range.
"Some guys can flat out shoot," Brooks said. "We need to know that.. and get them away from their strengths. We let a few guys that can flat-out shoot shoot a lot of threes."
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The Wizards did their job in limiting the Raptors' top scoring threats. All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan had a modest 17 points, six below his season average. All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry had only 11 points. A lethal three-point shooter, Lowry went just 1-for-4 from the perimeter.
It was pretty much everyone else who hurt them. C.J. Miles shot 4-for-7 from three and both Delon Wright and Serge Ibaka went 3-for-4. It's understandable if Wright surprised them, but Miles and Ibaka are known three-point marksmen.
Miles hits 2.3 threes per game and made six of them in the last meeting between these teams on March 2. Brooks used to coach Ibaka and knows what he's capable of.
"Ibaka, he’s a terrific shooter. He’s one of the best if not the best big man shooter in the league," Brooks said.
So, how did the Wizards let him and others go off? And why did they only shoot 8-for-21 from three themselves?
Porter's injury surely didn't help. He has major responsibilities guarding the perimeter and finished the season with the third-best three-point percentage in the league. Porter, though, was a gametime decision and was clearly hobbled by his right leg injury. Early in the first quarter, Porter landed on it awkwardly and played much of the rest of the game with a limp.
Porter didn't have the mobility to stay in front of guys on defense or get open on offense. He only took seven shots and three from long range. Brooks often says he wants Porter taking upwards of 10 threes per game.
There was no justifying the rest of the team's shortcomings and it will clearly be a point of emphasis going into Game 2.
"They’ve been doing it all year. Not 16 threes in the game, they average nearly 12, but we’ve gotta do a better job guarding all of their players," Brooks said. "The game has changed. The three-point ball is powerful and you have to be able to stop it or do it yourself. Tonight we weren’t able to stop it or do it ourselves. We have to do better."
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The Wizards will have to do better because if they don't it will be exremely difficult to beat the Raptors. During the regular season, the Raptors were 49-11 when making at least 10 threes. When they made 12 or more the Raptors went 37-6.
Those aren't good odds. It's stop the threes or else and in Game 1 the Wizards could not.
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