Pressure on Raptors vs. Wizards in Game 5
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors appeared to have control of their first-round series against Washington Wizards when they won the first two games.
They also thought they had Game 4 within their grasp, and yet the series is tied 2-2.
The pressure will be on the No. 1 Eastern Conference seed when they host the No. 8 seed Wizards in Game 5 of the best-of-seven series at the Air Canada Centre.
"I feel like both teams protected home court, now it's the best-of-three," Wizards guard John Wall said. "Somebody is going to have to win on the opponent's court to win. We have a good opportunity to go there with some momentum, going into Game 5, and we want to take full advantage and try to get that win."
It could have been different. With just under five minutes to play in Game 4 at Washington on Sunday, Wizards guard Bradley Beal fouled out. He had scored 31 points in 32 minutes.
The Wizards did not fold, however, but the Raptors did. With Wall leading the way, the Wizards went on to defeat the Raptors 106-98 to even the series.
"This one was tougher, because I thought we had it under control," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
Wall had 27 points, 14 assists and six rebounds in playing 43 minutes on Sunday.
After dropping the first two games in Toronto, Washington won both games at home, including a 122-103 decision in Game 3.
The Raptors led by 14 points during the third quarter on Sunday, but the score was tied at 92 when Beal fouled out.
The Raptors, who used their full bench successfully during the season, have started to again rely heavily on their All-Star guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.
DeRozan had 35 points, six rebounds and six assists Sunday, but also committed four of Toronto's 19 turnovers (the Wizards made 13 turnovers) in 38 minutes. He also made some ill-advised shots down the stretch and was willing to shoulder his share of the blame.
"I blame myself for a lot of mistakes, for a lot of forced shots late in the game," DeRozan said. "Mental mistakes, turnovers, late-game execution, stabbing in the backcourt in transition late in the game. A lot of things."
Reserve guard Delon Wright continued on that theme.
"I just think we have to make that adjustment to realize that they're not blitzing (DeRozan) as much anymore, they're playing more single coverage," said Wright, who passed up a couple of 3-pointers.
"Shoot it, man," DeRozan said. "Every one of my teammates, I don't care if they miss 20 shots in a row, if you get a shot, shoot it. That's the confidence we've had in one another all year."
Lowry also saw considerable playing time, playing 39 minutes and had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
A key player off the bench for the Raptors all season has been point guard Fred VanVleet, who has played only 2:49 in the series because of a sore right shoulder and is listed as doubtful for Game 5.
The Wizards, meanwhile, have been dealing with adversity all season with Wall limited to 41 starts because of a sprained left shoulder and surgery on his left knee. The Wizards were 2-2 against the Raptors during the season even though Wall missed all four games.
"You have to have resolve to win in this league," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "We've had some tough moments this year with John missing half the season, but we found it, and it put us in a position to make the playoffs through resolve. You win playoff games, and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games, and one of them has to be on the road."
The Raptors will be trying to avoid making as many turnovers. Another veteran, forward Serge Ibaka, also made four turnovers Sunday.
"Some of it is Washington's good defense and some of it is just taking out a gun, pointing it at your foot and shooting ourselves in the foot," Casey said. "A lot of it was uncharacteristic. But it just didn't start in Game 3. We had some of the same turnovers the first two games, but we were able to score and have a cushion and live through it. We have to take care of the basketball. Make sure we get quality shots."
Updated April 24, 2018