Wizards Eliminated from Playoff After Game 6 Loss
Wizards' Bradley Beal shoots a jump shot against the Raptors' defense. Toronto Raptors defeated Washington Wizards 102-92 during the Game 6 of the NBA playoffs at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on Friday, April 27, 2018. Robert Eubanks/DC Sports Box
WASHINGTON, D.C. Another lead going into the final quarter, another fourth quarter collapse for the Wizards. Another year of falling short and exiting the playoffs too soon. The script hasn’t changed for the Wizards in recent years and Game 6 proved no different.
 
The Wizards fell to the Toronto Raptors, 102-92, in a series clinching loss. This Game 6 loss epitomizes what the Wizards have been all season, an extremely talented, albeit flawed team, that relied too heavily on its starters, and could not close out games.
 
This is the same team that pronounced itself the best team in the East hours before Lebron James scored 57 points against them and proved otherwise. This is the same team that was able to win five straight games with John Wall sidelined and showed its potential to the league.  This is the same team that would then lose 9 of its final 12 games and drop to the eighth-seed in the playoffs.

Extremely talented. Extremely frustrating.  So it was only right that Game 6 followed the same script.

The Wizards opened the first quarter hitting six of their first eight shots, taking an early 18-6 lead within the first four minutes of the game. All five Wizards starters scored during the run and it looked as if the team would run away with the game early. Spoiler alert: that did not happen. After the hot start, the Wizards shot 25% from the field the rest of the quarter, but were able to maintain a 30-20 lead going into the second quarter.

The Wizards cold shooting continued into the second quarter as the team started the quarter 2-for-8, allowing the Raptors, led by back-up Fred VanVleet to pull within 1.  VanVleet, who had only played three minutes in this series thus far, chipped in two points, and led the Raptors in assists and rebounds in the quarter, with three each.

“[Fred] VanVleet plays winning basketball. He has a good spirit about him. He didn't shoot the ball well, but he makes big shots,” said Wizards Coach Scott Brooks.

Wall along with Bradley Beal always had an answer to the Raptors’ advances. Any time Toronto threatened to take the lead, the Wizards would push back. The Wizards would regain a double-digit lead late in the second quarter, during a period where Wall and Beal scored 13 straight Wizards points. The Wizards would go into the half with a 53-50 advantage and assurance that the Raptors had never in their franchise history won a postseason away game after trailing at halftime.

The second half presented a case study on the benefits of having two superstars on the same team, while also showing the hindrance of relying too heavily on those superstars for an entire game.

In the third quarter, Wall and Beal collectively went 7-for-11 from the field and chipped in 20 of the team’s 25 points, giving the Wizards a 78-73 advantage going into the fourth quarter.

John Wall of the Wizards goes up strong to the basket. Toronto Raptors defeated Washington Wizards 102-92 during the Game 6 of the NBA playoffs at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on Friday, April 27, 2018. Robert Eubanks/DC Sports Box
And that was when the collapse began. As the Raptors turned to their bench in the fourth quarter, the Wizards continued to rely heavily on Wall and Beal. The shots that were falling in the third quarter stopped and the duo went cold from the field, combining for 2-for-9 shooting and only 10 points.

Meanwhile, the Raptors bench opened the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run to take an 84-80 lead, forcing the Wizards to take a timeout to regroup. The Raptors would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game, outscoring the Wizards 29-14 in the fourth quarter to close out the series.

"Some of the things that happened in the fourth quarter have been happening throughout the year,” said Wizards Coach Scott Brooks. “We just had trouble scoring, making shots, we turned the ball over, we gave up offensive rebounds. They were making shots. We didn't have a good shooting game, take away that first quarter.”

Finding Freddy:

Fred VanVleet averaged 8.6 points and 3.2 assists per game during the regular season off the Raptors bench. He had missed much of the first round of the playoffs with a right shoulder injury, but was a major factor in Game 6.

“Just added Freddy [Fred VanVleet] to the group. That is the difference. We tried not to make a big deal out of it while he was out, keep the other guys motivated but he was the difference,” said Raptors Coach Dwane Casey. “I thought that little group has a playing personality that he does make a difference with that group. He is kind of the engine, the toughness. It is that little birdie on the shoulder and I thought it really propelled Pascal [Siakam] and those other guys to give them a sense of confidence.”

Siakam, who scored 11 points for the Raptors and had the highest +/- in the game with a +18, discussed the importance of getting VanVleet back in the line-up.

“He just keeps us all calm out there, even when things are not going right and everything. He just controls the tempo,” said Siakam. “We just have a cool factor when he's there. We are calm, no matter what we can figure it out. When Fred is out there, we feel complete, I guess, because we have been playing like that the whole season.”

The Benchwarmers:

The Raptors bench was fifth in scoring, sixth in rebounding, and had the highest +/- of any team during the regular season. In Game 6, the Raptors bench contributed 34 points and helped lead the fourth quarter comeback.

“Their bench played good. I think that's what won them the game. Gave them a little extra little boost,” said Wizards Forward Mike Scott.

Raptors Guard DeMar DeRozan had a business as usual approach to the bench’s contributions throughout Game 6.

“It’s nothing new to us. Like I said, those guys have been doing it all year. There’s been countless games where our starters didn’t even see the fourth quarter because of our bench,” said DeRozan. “Having Freddy back, it was expected. What those guys are capable of – they’re capable of going out there and playing against starters on the other team and competing at a high level.”

Raptors Coach Dwane Casey said he is going to continue running with his bench players throughout the playoffs as long as they continue producing.

“I am still looking for that manual that everybody says you cannot play the second unit. They are too young, they are too this, they are too that. Again, as long as they are productive, they are going to play. They have been good to us all year and they have closed it out for us tonight,” said Casey.

Tidbits:

The Wizards had more turnovers (14) than assists in the game (12).

The Raptors were 5-14 on the road in the playoffs over the past five years, prior to tonight’s win.

Bradley Beal played 10 minutes more than any starter on the Raptors in Game 6, while John Wall played 7 minutes more than any starter.
 
Written by Hirdesh Matta