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Wizards fall in Game 1 to Raptors due to three-point barrage from Toronto

Wizards fall in Game 1 to Raptors due to three-point barrage from Toronto

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 114-106 in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Down 0-1: The Raptors exorcised a playoff demon on Saturday night and it came at the expense of the Washington Wizards.

After losing 10 straight Game 1s, the Raptors finally got over the hump to begin the first round series between Washington and Toronto and the biggest reason was the three-point shot. That is perhaps fitting given the transformation the Raptors have made with their offense this season.

The Wizards are normally one of the best teams at defending the perimeter with the sixth-best opponent three-point percentage in the NBA. For a variety of reasons, that was not the case in Game 1. The Raptors set a playoff franchise record with 16 threes and shot 53.3 percent from long range.

C.J. Miles hit four triples, Serge Ibaka and Delon Wright each had three and both OG Anunoby and DeMar DeRozan each had two. That was despite Kyle Lowry, one of the NBA's best three-point shooters, who only went 1-for-4.

The Wizards are in an 0-1 hole and should still feel good about their chances in this series, but they have to clean that up or they won't last long.

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Playoff Keef: The Wizards are a much different team when Markieff Morris is playing at his best and his coach and teammates talk about it all the time. On Saturday, they got the best version of the power forward.

Morris brought the energy on both ends of the floor and impacted the game in a variety of ways. His stat-line reflected that. Morris had 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

Morris made a lot of his money in the midrange, but also threw down this big alley-oop:

There are several signs to look for when Morris is not only engaged but feeling spry. Alley-oops are one of them, in addition to rebounding and attacking the rim instead of camping out at the three-point line. He checked off all of those boxes in Game 1. If that keeps up for the rest of the series, the Wizards will be in good shape.

The bad news is that Morris tweaked his left ankle late in the game. It's the same ankle that he hurt in Game 1 against the Celtics last year. The injury had a major effect on his offseason.

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Tale of two halves: The Wizards did an excellent job of defending the Raptors' two best players in the first half, holding DeRozan and Lowry to a combined seven points through two quarters. The two attempted only a combined eight shots as guys like Anunoby and Ibaka led the way with 24 points between them by the break.

That wouldn't last long, however, as both Lowry and DeRozan came out hot in the second half. They combined for eight points in the first 2:12 in the third quarter, more than their entire first-half output.

Lowry only had 11 points, but added nine assists and two steals. DeRozan had 17 points and six assists.

Wall vs. Drake: One of the more entertaining moments in this game came in the second quarter and it involved John Wall (23 points, 15 assists) and a Raptors fan on the sideline. Well, it was no ordinary fan.

After going back and forth trash-talking on Instagram, Wall and rap superstar Drake kept it going face-to-face. Wall had some words for Drake during a timeout and video immediately went viral on social media:

The best part is that the Wizards quickly went on a big run. From that moment on, they outscored the Raptors 28-16 to close the first half. We all deserve more of this rivalry, even though Drake had the last laugh.

Foul trouble: Head coach Scott Brooks had to get creative with his rotations early in this one as both of his primary centers picked up two fouls before the midway point in the first quarter. Marcin Gortat (12 points, six rebounds) and Ian Mahinmi (two points, two minutes) each got early fouls, including one on the opening tip for Gortat.

That forced Brooks to go with Mike Scott as his big man early and it was a tough assigment. Scott had to play defense on Jonas Valanciunas and Ibaka, two guys who are significantly bigger than him. Ibaka took advantage in particular with 14 points in the first half, a game-high at the time. Ibaka finished with a huge night of 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.

Scott, though, stepped up big-time. He had 14 points in the game on 7-for-10 from the field. Consider that this guy was almost out of the NBA a year ago. It has been an amazing comeback for the former University of Virginia star. Scott's status for this game was also once in question due to concussion protocol after he left the regular season finale following a hit to the head.

Scott was the standout for the Wizards' second unit, the the Raptors had a big advantage in the second unit overall. Their bench outscored that of the Wizards by a margin of 42-21.

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No VanVleet: The Raptors were down a key player in Game 1, as backup point guard Fred VanVleet was absent due to a banged up right shoulder. He suffered the injury in the Raptors' final regular season game and his loss was noteworthy. VanVleet is one of the best backup point guards in the NBA and often gets crunchtime minutes late in games. If he misses more action, it could help the Wizards' chances in this series.

The Wizards have an injury situation to watch, too. Though Otto Porter played, he was clearly hobbled by the right lower leg strain that kept him out of the Wizards' last regular season game. Porter only scored nine points and took seven shots.

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Rain delay: The game didn't start on time due to a leaky roof at the Air Canada Centre. The weather was awful in Toronto, freezing rain and 29 degree temperatures. It forced the Raptors to cancel their outdoor tailgate at the famed Jurassic Park. That moisture also found its way through the roof and onto the court. Luckily, it only delayed the game for a few minutes.

Up next: The Wizards and Raptors pick back up for Game 2 on Tuesday in Toronto. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington Plus. Pregame coverage starts with Wizards HangTime at 6 p.m.

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Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

In terms of the needs on their roster and the guys most likely to be available when they are on the clock at No. 15 in the first round, few players in this draft class seem as obvious a fit with the Washington Wizards more than Robert Williams of Texas A&M. So, it was no surprise that he not only visited them in Washington on Monday, but received the only individual public workout they have held during this year's predraft process.

Williams could be the answer to their longstanding quest for an athletic big man. No need to bring in five other guys for the usual six-player workout when Williams deserves a longer and more extensive look than most prospects they are considering.

The 20-year-old was put through a variety of drills Monday afternoon, just days before the 2018 NBA Draft. He likes the fit with Washington, if that's how things end up sorting out.

"I definitely feel like they could use a big like me, a defensive-style athletic big like me. I definitely see myself fitting here," he said.

Williams is one of the best big men in this year's draft. He is 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds with a 7-5 wingspan. He used that length to dominate in the paint at the college level.

Williams averaged a modest 10.4 points for the Aggies in 2017-18, but also 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. That was his sophomore year. He averaged 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a freshman.

He was a shot-blocking force the day he stepped on campus and believes those skills will translate to the professional ranks. In the NBA, Williams believes he can thrive because his defensive versatility will be even more valuable in a day and age where switching is paramount.

"I feel like I can guard all positions. That’s one of my biggest attributes," he said. "It’s just about embracing it, having fun stopping a guard. Once you’re comfortable with it, you can do it."

Williams may adapt to the NBA quickly on the defensive end and that's where the Wizards need help the most. They haven't had a consistent rim-protector in years. Last season, point guard John Wall led the team in blocks per game.

Offense is where the questions lie with Williams. He wasn't a big scorer in college and does not have much of an outside shot. The fact he shot just 47.1 percent from the free throw line this past season suggests he has a lot of work to do before he can stretch the floor.

Williams will need to find a niche offensively, likely as a rim-runner off pick-and-rolls. He sees a lot of potential in a possible pick-and-roll pairing with Wall.

"He’s an elite passer and an elite guard. Coming off a pick-and-roll, you have to pay attention to him as well as have to pay attention to me as well. It’s a win-win situation," Williams said.

Williams believes his offensive game will open up with more space at the NBA level. The Wizards have Wall surrounded by three-point shooters in Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris. Toss Williams into the middle and he could go to work in the paint doing the rest.

If Williams were drafted by the Wizards, he could look at Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets as a model to follow. Like Houston, the Wizards have two All-Star guards. An athletic big man who doesn't need plays run for him could be the perfect complement.

No one needs to tell Williams that, he is well-aware. He said that at nearly every stop during the predraft process Capela's name has come up.

"I knew that’s what you were going to say," Williams said to a reporter (raises hand) who asked about the Capela comparison.

Williams continued to say they are different players and it's not entirely fair to compare them. That exchange showed Williams has an edge to him, sort of like Morris. He's clearly not afraid to be honest when some players would not.

Despite downplaying the comparison, Williams can see what makes Capela successful.

"I’ve watched him. He’s a great player," Williams said. "He is around the right people. He just plays his role. He runs off a lot of screens. He gets up there and does what he has to do."

Williams is gearing up for Thursday's draft and trying to decide who he will walk the stage with, as the NBA has introduced a new tradition of each player walking with two people. He said it will likely be his mother and sister. Perhaps by the end of the night he will also walk that stage wearing a Washington Wizards hat.

For more on Williams, check out our extensive draft profile on him.

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

Former NBA player J.J. Hickson faces charges of armed robbery after breaking into a home near Atlanta, stealing $100,000 from the house, and physically assaulting a teenager who was inside, authorities said Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Hickson, who played eight seasons in the NBA with four teams before his brief appearance in Washington, is currently being held in Coweta County Jail without bond. 

He is currently affiliated with the Lebanese Basketball League but played 15 games with the Wizards during the 2015-16 season. Hickson averaged 4.6 ppg and scored a season-high 15 points against the Nets in the penultimate game of the regular season. He has not played professionally in the United States since.  Hickson played just one season at North Carolina State before being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 19 pick of the 2008 NBA Draft.

Jimmy Yarbrough, the sheriff's spokesperson in Coweta, said that while at least two people were involved in the invasion, only Hickson is being held and charged.

According to authorities, Hickson entered through a side door, armed with a knife and his face and head covered. He was initially apprehended by another department and later transferred into the custody of Coweta County law enforcement. 

At this time in the investigation, very little detail is publicly available.

The teenage victim, whose name remains private, received medical treatment for several broken bones and is fortunately in good condition.