Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph ran to the side after a pick and was left wide open in the corner for a shot that no one knows for sure was supposed to happen. But he swished a three-point buzzer beater and got the win at the Verizon Center last night against the Washington Wizards, 84-82.
With three seconds left on the clock and time quickly running down, Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan received an inbound pass from forward DeMarre Carroll, ran it down, saw Joseph open at the left corner and sent the ball his way for a last second three-pointer over the head of Wizards guard Garrett Temple. Verizon Center was left gasping and the Wizards were in shock, especially since Washington led for most of the entire game. The Raptors had tied a season-high of 22 turnovers (the Wizards had 15 turnovers) and hadn’t led the game since early in the first quarter. The Raptors jumped and grabbed each other like they had just won the Conference Finals.
Washington felt like it was about to end its miserable three-game losing streak. The team came ready to play despite playing four games in a five-day stretch and shooting under 36 percent in three straight games. Head Coach Randy Wittman wanted his squad to bring more intensity and play more aggressively. The Wizards followed their coach’s instructions from the very beginning even though they only had ten active players. Center NeNe was out with a left calf strain, guard Gary Neal was out with a left groin strain and forward) Drew Gooden is still dealing with back spasms.
The Wizards were much more productive against a tough team that had just come off a three-game winning streak and possibly still carrying a grudge from last season’s sweep in the first-round of the playoffs. They executed plays, kept the defensive pressure on and held the Raptors to a low-scoring game. This was a game they knew they could win.
At the end of the first quarter, the Wizards had a seven-point lead. By the second quarter, Wizards small forward Otto Porter Jr. sunk a three in with two seconds left and brought their lead to six points, 45 – 39. Even though shooting guard Bradley Beal missed a 20-foot three-pointer to end the third quarter, the Wizards were still ahead by six.
By the fourth quarter the Wizards were looking ahead to victory and possibly snapping their three game losing streak. Washington put on one of their best defensive games this season, holding the Raptors to a 43 percent shooting percentage.
Beal led the offense with 20 points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals and played almost the entire game (41 minutes and was 5-9 from the field).
Center Marcin Gortat knew he had to give a greater effort with NeNe not in the game to help him. His response? A double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds for the game.
Despite his improved stats for the game, Gortat had a few words for the players, coaches and media to…“cut the negativity…it’s not fun coming here anymore…so much negativity. I understand we’re losing games but damn.”
Gortat also reminded the media that the expectations are too high for the team.
“We didn’t make any spectacular trades or signings in the offseason,” he said. “It’s not like we’re supposed to be three times a much better team this year.“
The Raptors out-rebounded the Wizards 47 to 42.
Porter got knocked around quite a bit throughout the game but managed to put up 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and played for 39 minutes. He was three for 10.
Washington Point guard John Wall struggled in the game. He went six for 25 from the field, one of four for three-pointers and five of eight for free throws. He finished with 18 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals. He played for 39 minutes.
Wizards’ forward Jared Dudley started for the first time in place of forward Kris Humphries. Although he didn’t put up great numbers last night he’s been consistently helpful coming off the bench in several games this season. It’s the stuff for which there are no stats and is really why he makes a difference with the team.
“He had an attitude that others lacked,” Wittman said about him and that’s why the coach changed the starting line-up. Dudley’s hustle this week — including the 19 points he scored in Boston Celtic’s game on Friday after only being in the game for 30 minutes — also helped secure a spot on the starting lineup.
It was the final plays of the game that would change the momentum to the dismay of the Wizards after going on a 12-point run early on in the game. Toronto put up quite a fight… they knew D.C.’s home-team was struggling and on a losing streak.
Wall missed a pair of free throws with 3.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter and they could not have come at a worst time. The Wizards were already behind after failing to score within the last four minutes of the game.
Had Wall gotten those two free throws, it would have put them up by three points at that time in the game. When he missed the two foul shots, the Wizards were just up by one point. The Raptors had exactly three seconds to make a shot and either tie or win the game.
During the timeout, coverage changed. Wizards’ guard/forward Ramon Sessions came in for Dudley and Temple came in for Gortat. Joseph came in the game for Toronto center Bismarck Biyombo. Raptors’ Carroll sent the inbound pass to DeRozan, who saw an open Joseph in the left corner as he was driving to the basket. Joseph received the pass from DeRozan and with one-second left and made the game-winning three-point buzzer-beater to extend the Wizards into a four game loss.
Maybe it wasn’t all Wall’s fault… Gortat and Dudley’s size were still needed even for the remaining three seconds.
“We felt like we let this one slip away,” the two-time All Star said, “But you can kind of deal with this, the way we competed. And that’s the most important thing.”