Raptors fall into familiar bad habits in second half collapse
WASHINGTON — When Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. poked the ball away from Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry and raced down the court on the inbounds of the last possession of Game 4, Kyle Lowry wasn’t going to wait around for what was a fait accompli. Oubre pulled the ball back out, and before he could whittle away the final nine seconds of the 106-98 Washington win, Lowry had already marched through the visitors’ tunnel at Capital One Arena with his head down.
A game the top-seeded Raptors had led by 11 points at the half — and by eight with less than eight minutes remaining — had slipped. Toronto now finds itself tied 2-2, with Game 5 scheduled on Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre against a resurgent Wizards team that stated on Sunday night has identified the formula for knocking off the Raptors. “[We] know what we can do to beat this team,” Wizards guard John Wall said from the postgame podium. “We know what we got to do to stop this team.”
Wall’s confidence is to be admired, and the Wizards deserve praise for a more deceptive offense that lured Toronto into a lousy combination of mismatch basketball, frenzied turnovers and missed opportunities on the offensive end. But whatever strategies Washington deployed effectively on Sunday night, the Raptors’ failures in Game 4 were largely self-inflicted.
“We passed up some shots,” Lowry said. “We didn’t move the ball as well. We just got stagnant.”
There were faint hints of the stagnation in the first half, when the Raptors scored 51 points in 49 possessions, a mark well below the brutal efficiency the offense had achieved in the first three games of the series. Breakdowns have a way of being covered over when a defense turns in its best half of the postseason: The Raptors bottled up Wall’s pick-and-roll attack, which had bludgeoned them for 1.17 points per possession on direct picks, and allowed the Wizards only six points on nine direct picks in the first half.
Yet Toronto’s offense appeared less oiled, less resourceful and less trusting throughout the game. In the first three games of the series, the Raptors initiated only 37 isolation possessions — among the fewest in the playoff field. In…