The Wizards looked to be in trouble down 0-2 to the Toronto Raptors when the series shifted back to Washington, DC. Bradley Beal and John Wall had other plans, leading the Wizards to two straight home wins over the Raptors to tie the series 2-2 headed into Game 5 at Toronto Wednesday night.
Here are my biggest takeaways from the Wizards’ two home wins over the weekend:
Hallelujah! Bradley Beal has officially arrived at the 2018 NBA playoffs! After two lackluster performances to begin the series against the Raptors, Beal stepped up over the weekend to help carry the Wizards to two wins. Beal started this series terribly and looked sluggish in the first two games. In Game 1, Beal scored 19 points on 8-17 shooting (2-6 from 3) in 41 minutes of playing time, with four assists and a plus minus of -10. In Game 2, Beal scored just 9 points on 3-11 shooting (1-5 from 3), and posted a woeful plus minus of -34. The Wizards cannot win a playoff series when Beal plays poorly, and so it wasn’t surprising to see the Wizards drop the first two games of the series. Whatever Bradley Beal did in between Games 2 and 3 seemed to have worked, however. Beal exploded in Game 3 for 28 points on 10-19 shooting (4-9 from 3) with a plus minus of +19, and in Game 4, Beal scored 31 points on 10-19 shooting (5-7 from 3) despite fouling out with five minutes left in the 4th quarter (on a ridiculous sixth foul call). Beal found his stroke from beyond the arc again and played with energy and confidence in Games 3 and 4, and the Wizards need Beal to stay hot to steal a win on the road in Toronto.
John Wall, off returning from missing half of the regular season due to knee surgery, looks like he never left. There was concern entering the playoffs that Wall might not be completely healthy yet, or that he would be rusty after missing so much time. Wall has dispelled both of those concerns, and is the only Wizard who has played well in each of the first four games of this series. Wall is averaging 26.8 points per game and 13 assists per game thus far in the series, and is clearly the best player on either team. When Wall and Beal are both playing as well as they did over the weekend, they remind everybody why they belong in the debate of top backcourts in the NBA. With these two leading the way, the Wizards can make some noise in the Eastern Conference.
Marcin Gortat had an uneven regular season with the Wizards, and in the first two games against the Raptors he was almost non-existent. Marcin scored twelve points but only notched six rebounds in Game 1, and in Game 2 Gortat played just twelve minutes, scoring zero points and grabbing only three rebounds. He was essentially a non-factor in this series until the Wizards returned home to DC, and Gortat bounced back (especially in Game 4). In Game 4, Gortat scored 12 points on 6-8 shooting with 6 rebounds. While Gortat does need to grab more rebounds, he was a force offensively in the post and runs the pick and roll better than any center in the NBA. Wall and Gortat very well might be the best pick and roll combo in the NBA, and Gortat helped facilitate the offense and open things up for Wall and the rest of the team. Gortat even had a thunderous dunk and showed why he is called “The Polish Hammer”. When Wall and Gortat are clicking the way they did in Game 4, they are hard to stop.
Some other thoughts about the Wizards’ 2 home wins vs the Raptors:
– Kelly Oubre Jr is playing great defense in this series. He draws charges and nags whoever he is guarding while providing energy to the team as a spark off the bench. While Oubre has been struggling shooting from 3, he also pumps the team up with big dunks. I love Oubre’s swagger and confidence.
– Markieff Morris played great in Game 4. The boxscore doesn’t do him justice (6 points, 5 rebounds). Keef played great defense and made some key plays late for the Wizards.
– The 6th foul on Bradley Beal that resulted in Beal fouling out of the game with five minutes left in the 4th quarter of Game 4 was an atrocious call. Beal was just standing there, not to mention DeRozan should have been called for traveling before the foul happened because his shot never hit the rim.