Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards started the game playing like a team on the brink of elimination as they raced out to an early double-digit lead, but they ultimately could not hang on to force a Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors, falling 102-92.
After the hot start, the Wizards led 30-20 at the end of the first quarter and looked poised to collect a third home win in the series. Brad and John Wall were leading the charge, willing the team to an early lead.
The No. 1 seed Raptors fought back in the second quarter, drawing within three after a Kyle Lowry triple in the final minute of the first half. The Wizards felt like they could compete with Toronto all series long, and they didn’t back down entering the second half with their season on the line.
As has been the theme in this series, this game was a battle between the guards on both teams. Lowry and DeMar DeRozan played efficient basketball, combining for 40 points and just two turnovers. BB and Wall answered with a combined 55 points, including eight assists from Wall and six threes from No. 3.
Brad added 12 points in the third quarter, while Wall chipped in eight, and the Wizards carried a five-point lead entering the final frame, but the Raptors’ bench, led by Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright and Jakob Poeltl, started the fourth quarter and took the lead from the Wizards.
Down the stretch, Lowry and DeRozan made enough plays to secure the victory, advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and end the Wizards’ 2017-18 season.
After the game, BB expressed his frustrations about the early exit from the playoffs. He knows what his team is capable of, and he knows they can produce better results.
“We’re a better team than that,” Beal said postgame. “We had high expectations for ourselves coming into the year and we fell short of them.”
Last season, Washington was one game away from the Eastern Conference Finals. While the Wizards had higher expectations for themselves entering the season, there are some positives to take from this season for Brad and his teammates.
For starters, No. 3 finally broke through and became a first-time All-Star. The recognition for The Panda was long overdue, but he finally gained the attention he deserved, as he averaged 22.6 points per game, a career-best 4.5 assists per game and a career-high 4.4 rebounds per game.
Nagging injuries to Wall perhaps hindered the team’s record this season, but Wall’s absence allowed guys like Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre more opportunities to develop and grow, which benefits the team moving forward.
Otto Porter Jr. continued to show improvement from behind the arc, shooting at a career-best 44 percent clip from three-point range.
“For these guys to even compete the way they did and for Brad to have an MVP-type season for our team and make even more strides is big-time for us,” Wall said.
Next year, assuming Brad and Wall remain healthy, the Wizards will look to improve and display more consistently. Center Marcin Gortat certainly believes the current roster fits well together.
“[Beal and Wall] fit each other perfectly because one guy handles the ball, pushes hard, the other guy is a great shooter, great athlete,” Gortat said. “They are both different. Ice and fire.”