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John Wall and Bradley Beal Guide Wizards to 2-0 Sweep in Toronto

John Wall and Bradley Beal dominated the Raptors, and for the second game in a row, the Wizards looked superior to Toronto, winning 117-106. Wall was superb throughout, finishing with 26 points and 17 assists in 40 minutes. Beal rode an unstoppable first half to a game-high 28 points in 42 minutes. Once again, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry especially were no match for Washington’s talented backcourt.

Washington overcame another poor first quarter in which they failed to make a three, falling down 31-26 after one. DeRozan started hot with nine early points and Jonas Valanciunas had a great opening quarter, tallying eight points and four boards in eight minutes. Toronto looked explosive early, as Wall’s eight points and five assists barely kept the Wizards in striking distance. Marcin Gortat chipped in 10 points and made all five of his shots, adding two key blocks as well.

Things turned for the Raptors when Kyle Lowry picked up his third foul with the Raps up four and 9:19 left in the half. Lowry got caught hooking Otto Porter less than 10 seconds after he had fouled Beal. The Raptors needed him to decrease his risk taking on defense, but he instead doubled down after Game 1’s foul out. Lowry fared no better in the second half, finishing with only six points and four assists on 3-of-10 shooting. He missed both his three-point and free throw attempts.

Unfortunately for Toronto, Lowry appeared to injure his lower left leg in the fourth quarter and was in considerable pain on the bench before heading into the locker room. The only thing worse for the Raptors than this ineffective Kyle Lowry would be none at all.

Pierce and the Wizards roasted Toronto when he moved to power forward in Game 1, so the Raptors made a change to combat this:

Porter did his best to exploit the mismatch by being active on the offensive glass and making several heady defensive plays as well. It has taken awhile, but the Wizards might actually have something in the 2013 third overall pick. Porter was +17 in 17 critical first-half minutes and posted a strong 15 points and nine boards in 34 minutes total. He also knocked down two huge threes that helped put Toronto away for good, and Randy Wittman is really starting to trust the young wing.

James Johnson rightfully got in the game after being mothballed for Game 1, and the wild Raptors crowd gave him one of the more random standing ovations you’ll see. The bouncy wing was highly useful in small ball lineups for Toronto this season, so putting him on Pierce was a far better assignment than Tyler Hansbrough. It wasn’t enough, though, as Beal and Wall spurred a ferocious Wizards run to take their first lead late in the half. Still, trying out the curiously red-haired Johnson was clearly the right move. Pierce couldn’t keep up with him at all, allowing two easy layups and four free throws in the six-minute stint. However, Johnson missed all four freebies, and the Wizards outscored Toronto by 14 points in that stretch.

For a brilliant second-quarter stretch, Beal looked as fast as Wall and deadly as ever from deep. He led all scorers at the half with 20 points on only 13 shots. None of the Raptors could stay in front of either Washington guard as they flew through the backcourt and past Valanciunas and others for easy layups. Lowry, a good on-ball defender when not taking too many risks, was glued to the bench with the fouls. Plus, moving Pierce to power forward forced the Raptors to play smaller, decreasing their ability to protect the rim. Washington rode this huge advantage into the half with a resounding 60-49 lead. They outscored the Raps by 16 in the pivotal quarter, playing a wildly different style than in the first:

Not quitting just yet, the Raptors came storming back to start the third with a 12-3 run. With Nene and Gortat back in, the Wizards fell back to their mid-rangy ways. Outside of a highly difficult Beal floater, Washington missed all its shots in that stretch, allowing the Raptors easy buckets on the run.

But Wall and Pierce responded, knocking down long jumpers to push the lead back to double digits. Toronto’s defense just couldn’t stop any of Washington’s activity, and the wheels really fell off around the time Wall formally took over the world:

Wall immediately made a sick and-1 on the other end and added a contested three-ball a couple minutes later to put the Wizards up 20 near the end of the quarter. The Raptors’ passionate crowd was silent as even Drew Gooden, Porter and Ramon Sessions got in on the fun from deep. Wall already had 22 points and 16 assists at the end of three quarters, and the Wizards’ often anemic offense already had 97 points and led by 22.

Toronto never gave up, but they were unable to get within 10 at any point in the fourth quarter. The Wizards dominated this game from Lowry’s third foul until the end, and they’ve undoubtedly looked like the better team through the first two. Lowry’s potential injury will be a big factor heading into Game 3, but the Wizards get to go home with a 2-0 lead and tons of confidence. Washington is in fantastic position to secure the series.

Bonus Fun Fact: Randy Wittman is 7-1 coaching road playoff games. I don’t understand it either.

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