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Markieff Morris: Wizards better than Raptors; Giannis Antetokounmpo: Bucks better than Celtics

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The Raptors beat the Wizards 4-2 in their first-round series. The Celtics beat the Bucks 4-3 in their first-round series.

But that didn’t stop players on Washington and Milwaukee from claiming superiority.

Wizards forward Markieff Morris, via Hoop District:

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, via ESPN:

I thought we were the better team. But, unfortunately, we cannot move to the second round. But it was a good series. But we have a better team.

Antetokounmpo has a much stronger case.

The Bucks pushed Boston – without Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis, which is the team we’re judging – to seven games. The home team won all seven games. The Bucks outscored the Celtics by 12.3 points per game in Milwaukee – more than the Celtics’ advantage in Boston, 10.3 points per game. If this series were played on a neutral court – the theoretical best way to judge “better team” – the Bucks might have won.

Toronto was better than Washington all season and looked better throughout the series. That result wasn’t a fluke. The Wizards keep talking big, and – led by John Wall and Bradley Beal – they’re pretty talented. But they too rarely back it up. This seems like more of the same.

For second straight game, Raptors own fourth and defeat Wizards, take series 4-2

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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.

John Wall: “I kinda like ran out of gas a little bit” at end of Game 5

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John Wall played the entire second half in Game 5 in Toronto, a game that was within a few points (always single digits) one way or another, until midway through the fourth when Toronto went on a 12-0 run, created some space, and held on for the 108-98 win. As it has been all series, in the fourth the Wizards just could not generate points out of their half-court sets — in 22 half-court possessions in the fourth quarter, the Wizards scored on six of them in Game 5 (stats via Synergy Sports). Toronto pushed the ball, scored more on their chances, and took the 3-2 series lead.

What happened in the fourth? Part of it is John Wall got tired, which is why he went 2-of-7 shooting with a couple of turnovers in the fourth, something he admitted to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“I definitely do, I feel like that,” Wall said when asked if he feels he can take over a playoff game at any point after the Wizards’ shootaround today. “But at the same time, I think last game I kinda like ran out of gas a little bit the last five minutes and I gotta do a better job of — not taking time off — but letting other guys create or create for other guys and let those guys make plays at times.

“So [during] those last five minutes, kind of like Game 4 here, I can have the energy to make plays for myself but also for my teammates. I think that kind of hurt us in the last game.”

Wall needs to trust his teammates. Which is both true and going to be harder to do Friday night in a must-win Game 6 at home.

Bradley Beal has made plays in transition in this series, and his catch-and-shoot game never went away, but he’s not been able to create — when he’s been the pick-and-roll ball handler the Wizards have scored a dreadful 0.667 points per possession. Beal is finishing, but not creating. Otto Porter will not play the rest of this series following surgery on his knee. That leaves Kelly Oubre, Markieff Morris, and Ty Lawson to create shots not generated by Wall.

All of which is to say: The Wizards need a couple big games from Wall if they are going to upset the Raptors and get out of the first round. To get that, coach Scott Brooks has got to find a way to get Wall a little more rest (they trusted Tomas Satoransky during the season and he held it down, Brooks should consider it again).

Wizards’ Otto Porter out for rest of Raptors series

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The Wizards – down 3-2 to the Raptors in their first-round series entering tonight’s Game 6 – were already in a hole.

It just got deeper with Otto Porter sidelined.

Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

Porter has been just so-so in this series, but at his best, he’s an ideal complementary player – a knockdown spot-up 3-point shooter and plus defender. There’s no chance of him regaining that form against Toronto now.

This vaults Kelly Oubre into a larger role. He’s already talking the talk. Now, it’s even more important he walks the walk. Oubre hasn’t been great in this series, either, but he has potential.

How Washington fills in the rest of its rotation will be trickier. Not only did Porter start at small forward, he unlocked more versatile lineups as a small-ball power forward. This will mean more Markieff Morris and Mike Scott at power forward, which means more Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi at center. The Wizards’ bigs will look more traditional. Washington also might use more three-guard lineups with three of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Ty Lawson and Tomas Satoransky.

Wizards beat Raptors in Game 4, tie series at 2-2 heading to Toronto

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The Toronto Raptors were far and away the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. The Washington Wizards were … well, very Wizard-y.

So considering their regular seasons, the fact that Washington was able to tie the first round series between the two teams at 2 games apiece on Sunday is pretty astonishing.

Bradley Beal had 31 points and five rebounds for the Wizards while teammate John Wall added 27 points to go along with a whopping 14 assists. Washington shot an impressive 41 percent from 3-point range as four of five starters finished in double-digit scoring.

Despite Beal’s performance, it was Wall who saved the day for the Wizards. Beal was disqualified after fouling out with around five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Beal didn’t agree with the call, and could be seen throwing a towel near the Washington bench.

For his part, Wall either scored or assisted on 10 of the Wizards’ final 14 points of the game. That helped stave off the likes of DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 35 points.

The series heads back to Toronto for Game 5, which will be played on Wednesday, April 25.