With its season on the line in the fourth quarter of an elimination game, the Wizards had nothing. Their offense was stagnant and relied too much on their two stars to create everything off the dribble for everyone. Their bench was no help. A season of inconsistent (in part due to injuries) and at times disinterested play caught up with them.
Washington shot 25 percent in the fourth quarter, John Wall was 0-of-4 and again looked gassed, the Wizards allowed the Raptors to pull down eight offensive rebounds in the fourth alone, and they allowed the Toronto to start the quarter on an 11-2 at the hands of the Raptors’ deep bench. After that Toronto never looked back.
The result was a 102-92 Toronto win that eliminates Washington from the postseason and sends the Raptors on to the next round (to face the winner of the Pacers/Cavaliers series).
“We knew they were going to make a run, they were on their home floor, we just had to stay aggressive,” Kyle Lowry said of the Raptors in the fourth. “We needed this game. We wanted to win this game bad.”
After a rough first trip to Washington earlier this series — where the Wizards won Games 3 and 4 and doubt started to creep into the minds of Raptors’ fans (and maybe players) — this was redemption. In Game 5 and again Friday night in Game 6, back in Washington, the Raptors trusted what won them 59 games in the regular season: They defended well (particularly in transition), they shared the ball on offense, and they leaned on their bench, which had Fred VanVleet back for the first time this series.
It was that bench that started the fourth for Toronto with an 11-2 run, aided by the Wizards 0-4 shooting. The Raptors were doing it on both ends, playing good defense, then turning those misses and turnovers into buckets going the other way.
“Our bench is always my favorite part, I love those guys to death,” Lowry said. “Freddy came back and gave us some juice, Pascal (Siakam) was guarding 17 people, we got CJ (Miles) and those guys. and they were great.”
The Raptors also got 24 points on 15 shots from an energized Kyle Lowry, which made up for an off night from DeMar DeRozan (16 points on 18 shots). Those stars shared the ball and that led to eight Raptors with at least seven points.
Washington should look at this series and how they got beat as a model going forward. Toronto reshaped its offense last offseason to share the ball more, run more motion and actions off the ball, and not just rely on its stars. They focused nightly on defense and playing the right way. And the Raptors had the best bench in the league and trusted it. Washington needs all of those things.
Early in the first quarter, energized by the crowd, it seemed as of the Wizards might force a Game 7. The Wizards got seven quick transition points, playing fast yearly and get up by 11 on 7-of-9 shooting. Then reality set in, the Raptors did better with transition defense to slow the game down and the Wizards shot just 3-of-15 the rest of the quarter. Still, the Wizards were up 30-20 after one as the Raptors just could not hit shots.
The return of VanVleet instantly settled Toronto’s second unit down, led to good decisions and clean looks, including a couple of lobs.
The Raptors closed the gap in the second quarter (a couple of times), led by Lowry’s 10 points in the quarter, to make it a 53-50 Wizards lead at the half.
Bradley Beal put on a show with 12 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Wizards in front by a few. Beal finished the game with 32 points on 22 shots. Wall had 23 points but on 9-of-22 shooting and with eight assists (and four turnovers).
Then came the fourth, the Raptors bench, and their rested stars. After that, it was all over, and the Wizards fans were leaving early.
Toronto goes home and will get to rest for a few days, then watch Game 7 between the Pacers and Cavaliers on Sunday.