Toronto Raptors lose game 4 to Washington Wizards – series tied at 2-2

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Bradley Beal
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Bradley Beal /

Late game execution and turnovers prove costly for the Toronto Raptors as this NBA Eastern Conference playoffs series is tied at 2-2 against the Wizards.

A two game advantage has vanished for the Toronto Raptors in what was a tale of two halves on Sunday night in Washington. The Toronto Raptors will return north, now faced with a guaranteed game six back in Washington.

Much like game three, early on it appeared as if the Raptors had complete control of game four. Leading the entire half, whenever Washington made a run to make the score close, Toronto responded with either a great defensive possession  or timely three-point shooting.

In the first quarter, the Raptors found themselves in a back and forth battle with Washington, John Wall and Bradley Beal regularly earned both pick-and-roll opportunities and line drives to the basket in isolation situations. However, near the end of the first quarter the Raptors were able to pull away with a 30-22 lead, thanks to DeMar DeRozan‘s ability to get to the charity stripe.

The Raptors built off of this momentum in the second quarter. The second quarter was better for Toronto in that they were able to again contain Wizards’ runs, both on the floor and in the score. This was done forcing tough shots in the post and sagging off John Wall just enough to bait him into taking contested jumpers. The second quarter was highlighted by a Delon Wright pass to Pascal Siakam, where Siakam provided an exclamation point dunk to bring the momentum fully to the Raptors side. After two quarters the Raptors were up 11.

Second-half struggles lead to poor execution

Coming into the second-half up 11, the Raptors looked to be in control. However a much different result soon appeared, as both ball and player movement started to become stagnant. The Raptors looked similar to past-postseason’s with hero ball fueled by many unassisted attempts.

Otto Porter emerged from the slumber he had been in for the first three games, and came alive to help bring the game to within two points. While DeRozan and Kyle Lowry tried their best to stave off the Wiz, eventually Beal got hot and the third-quarter ended tied at 80 points.

The fourth quarter is where the offense stalled for the Toronto Raptors. Players out of position, costly turnovers, and too many one-on-one sets, lead to tough shots being taken. The Raptors lost this game themselves by not sticking to what has worked all year – ball movement with a purpose. Too many times they found themselves surrounded by three Wizards players and nowhere to turn. These execution woes were even more accented by Beal being fouled out with 4:58 left in the game.

The Raptors inability to guard Wall, largely due to Washington’s great spacing at the end of the game, lead to too many easy baskets for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Otto Porter. Washington was able to exploit their advantages to get ahead on free throws. The result is an L for Raptors and their lead in this first round series evaporated.

What it means for Game 5

So far, each team has held their home court. This is a good situation to be in for the Raptors as they will have two of the potentially three remaining games on their floor. The downside? Washington has the momentum right now. They have the combination of players that is working for them, and the Raptors have looked stagnant offensively. Another positive for the Raptors is that they do not play until Wednesday, which provides a lot of time to review film and make adjustments. A hard look at the Raptors’ offensive side of the ball will see a lack of player or ball movement and similar patterns to previous Raptors’ failures. Hopefully that can be fixed, and will also eliminate the persistent turnover problem that the Raptors have had all series. One last advantage is the healing time for Fred VanVleet, whom’s impact has sorely been missed with the second unit.

Next: Three takeaways after three games against the Wizards

Game five is critical because it will allow two chances to close out this series, and the Raptors will have to play tough to win back momentum.