Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)
The Toronto Raptors were in Washington Friday night looking to take a commanding 3-0 series lead against the Wizards. But the Raptors were once again without the likes of Fred VanVleet, who after only playing three minutes in game 2 is still suffering from a shoulder injury. Although he has been practicing, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey says it’s not that serious.
Teams who are up 2-0 in a series go on to win 93.5% of the time. Going up 3-0 would definitely put away the series in a hurry with teams whom go down 0-3 in a series have a combined NBA record of 0-127.
With tip-off underway, it didn’t take long for the physicality to kick in. Only two and a half minutes into the game, a bit of a shoving match occurred between Raptors' rookie OG Anunoby and Wizards' Markieff Morris, leading to both teams getting involved and putting their own words in before getting split up. After a lengthily review, OG and Morris ultimately received double technicals. During that review, Kyle Lowry gathered up the troops to calm them down and get the mindset of winning this game back.
The Raptors opened the game up 3-4 from three point range which added on to a 12-4 from Toronto. This included a rare but beautiful move from Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas, blowing by Gortat from atop of the three-point line and doing a reverse lay-up. This forced Wizards head coach - Scott Brooks - to call a timeout. Hundreds of Raptors’ fans were being heard from behind the Raptors’ bench, who made the trip to D.C. Although the Raptors were up 19-12 at the 4:22 mark, the Wizards went on a 18-10 run to end the first quarter to lead by one.
This is where the game changed, and it can be defined by one word: Turnovers. The Washington Wizards forced the Raptors to five turnovers. But it was the points off those turnovers that was the story. Dead ball turnovers might not be so bad, but live ball turnovers are where they get you. Washington led in the category 17-2 just halfway through the second quarter. Although the Raptors were only down five at the 7:22 mark of the second quarter, it wasn’t done there. Four minutes later the Wizards went on a 17-6 run. The crowd was loud, the players were hyped, which seemed to get the better of the Raptors who weren’t moving the ball on offence and not getting great looks.
With 3:30 to go in the second and the Raptors’ down 13, coach Casey called a timeout trying to calm this crowd down and to regroup his team. It worked for a bit, but not for long. Toronto came out of the timeout going on a 7-0 run to go down just five with two minutes to play in the first half. Washington didn’t let that get to them, as they pulled away again and led 69-61 at halftime. John Wall and Bradley Beal combine for 40 points at halftime, while the Raptors turned the ball over 12 times ,leading to 22 points off turnovers for Washington.
From there, Washington never looked back, as they scored 32 points in the third quarter extending their lead to 19 points going into the fourth. The Wizards held that lead all the way through to ultimately defeat Toronto 122-103. Toronto finished the game with 19 turnovers leading to 28 of Washington’s 122 points. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combined for 42 points compared to Wizards back-court of John Wall and Bradley Beal who combined for 56 points. Gortat showed up as well, shooting eight for ten from the field with 16 points. Meanwhile, Raptors’ Serge Ibaka did not show up. He went one for four and only picking up three points. Raptors fans can only hope Ibaka does not fall back into that horrific dry spell he had near the end of the regular season.
Game four goes today at 6 p.m. in Washington. Toronto needs to take care of the ball more and not let turnovers get the better of them. They can’t let the ball sit in the hands of one person. Hopefully that doesn’t happen. Fred VanVleet can be a huge difference maker in that situation and who can possibly play in game four. No update on his status is known at this time. This series isn’t over yet and if the Wizards win game four, it’ll be all knotted up heading back to Toronto for a crucial game five at the ACC.
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