Posted on February 2, 2018, by Travis Pulver
When a team loses a star like John Wall, one of two things tends to happen. Either his absence will be evident as the team gets destroyed or everyone else will pick up their game to make up for it. So—how’s it going for the Washington Wizards? So far, so good.
Thursday night’s game was their third without Wall (who had surgery on his left knee Wednesday). Once again, the team played just fine. Eight guys scored in double figures, but it was a flurry of free throws in the final seconds of the game that secured a 122-119 win over the Toronto Raptors.
It didn’t look promising for the Wizards at first. Toronto got off to a solid start and took a seven-point lead after the first quarter, 34-27. Washington was unable to make up any ground in the second, leaving Toronto still holding onto a seven-point lead at the half, 62-55.
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After going through the first half of his career without a made field goal, Bradley Beal made up for it in the second half. Powered by three three-pointers by Beal in the opening minutes of the third quarter, the Wizards went on a 13-6 run to tie the score at 68-68.
Otto Porter Jr. gave Washington the lead on the next shot.
The lead went back and forth over the remainder of the third. But heading into the fourth quarter, the Wizards held a one-point lead, 88-87. The game continued to remain close, but then a 9-0 run late in the game put the Wizards on top 115-110 with 1:45 to play.
Washington didn’t end up making another basket, but they did hit seven of eight free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
Toronto had their shot, but they failed to capitalize on opportunities when they presented themselves. While Kyle Lowry had a great fourth quarter with 17 of his 29 points, he missed a free throw with three seconds to go that would have tied the game. Serge Ibaka had a potential game-tying three-pointer rim out.
“We could have handled stuff and not be in that situation, but we didn’t,’’ DeRozan said after the game (Toronto Sun). “We still had a chance to win it, tie it up.
“I’ll live with Serge’s shot any day. I’ll live with Kyle going to the free-throw line any day. They just didn’t go in. We could still be playing or just walking in the locker room now. It’s part of the game.”
Beal made up for a terrible opening half with 25 points in the second. He led the team in scoring followed by Otto Porter Jr. who had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Markief Morris chipped in 15, and Mike Scott led the way off the bench with 14.
“We all know our game has to elevate,” Beal said after the game (Washington Post). “John’s out, and he’s going to be out for a while. We’re not making any excuse about it.
“Everybody’s elevating their game,” Beal continued. “This is the time of the year in which we need to do so.”
It is not unusual for a team to experience a surge from other players when a star goes down. However, that surge usually wears off in time. But if the team can keep sharing the ball (30 assists against Toronto) and moving quickly, maybe it doesn’t have to.
But only time will tell.
Washington will try to keep the good times rolling when they face the Orlando Magic Friday night. Toronto will try to back on the right side of the scoreboard when the Portland Trail Blazers come to town.