- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2015

Standing for most of the night, a small group of Toronto Raptors fans in the upper row of the lower bowl were escorted out of their seats late in the third quarter. Security came to help the ushers remove part of an ensemble who apparently were in seats belonging to other patrons.

The Wizards would have been much better served if the Raptors themselves were removed from the building. Another dismal night against the Canadian club that touts their northhood with broken diction — “We the north” is their slogan — was taking place. The Wizards had already been blown out in the north, when the Raptors beat them, 103-84, Nov. 7, 2014. In the third quarter at home Saturday, they trailed by 21 points. If a chunk of the Raptors fans had to go, they could depart feeling pleased.

At least, for some time. The Wizards unexpectedly came back to force overtime when Paul Pierce hit another grandiose three-pointer with 25.9 seconds to play. However, the Raptors‘ control resurfaced in the overtime, producing a 120-116 win.

Despite the Washington’s rally, the evening also generated more proof Toronto — much like conference-leading Atlanta — sits as a poisonous matchup for the Wizards. It’s likely that if the Wizards want to come out of the Eastern Conference, they will have to beat the Raptors and Hawks. At this point, it’s hard to envision that result against teams that are too swift, too well spaced and too eager to move the ball. Washington is built to beat the Chicago Bulls in a hammer-and-cudgel series. They are ill-equipped to face the X-Acto knife work of the East’s top two teams.

Meanwhile, their star is grappling with an expanding list of physical issues. Saturday, the sniffles were added to Wall’s growing list of maladies. He has sprained ankles, a persistent migraine and now a cold to top it off. His dynamic line of 27 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds and just two turnovers against Toronto ran counter to how a projection based on his pregame feelings would look. Wall was the last Wizard onto the floor for warmups. He held a hand up to fend off the spotlight when he was introduced because it made his head throb. His voice lacked its usual depth and gravel postgame and gave way to a lighter tone.

Wall’s availability for Monday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats is in question. He’ll join the rest of America on Sunday. He plans to take a step back and watch the Super Bowl. More treatment will come Monday. For Wall, the All-Star break will be a panacea. He has two weeks until it arrives.

“The way I’m feeling now, I’m going to rest and decide what I’m going to do on Monday,” Wall said. “This was a big game that I wanted to play, because I know how much it meant to our team. Playing those guys, we only play them three times and they won the season series, but we wanted to have the opportunity to tie it up. I still have headaches and a cold at the same time. With the migraines, I try to stay out of light as much as possible. I’ve gotten a lot of treatment on my ankle and it feels better than what it did Wednesday night.”

While Wall pursues remedies for his ills, the Wizards search for a viable second unit. Forty eight games into the season, Wizards coach Randy Wittman put out a lineup he has not used yet this season when Garrett Temple joined Wall, Otto Porter, Kris Humphries and Kevin Seraphin on the floor. Martell Webster — who spent portions of the game on an exercise bike or working with resistance bands — has been banished out of the rotation. Andre Miller and Rasual Butler have had their minutes slashed. Temple is now the backup point guard. Wittman remains desperate for assurance from some combination when his starters come out.

“I’m searching for consistency, that’s the main thing,” Wittman said. “We’ve been coming in for two to three minutes and are falling behind 10 to 12 points wherever we were at in those minutes so we have got to be able to maintain where we are at or make it better. That’s what any coach looks for in his bench.”

Temple’s defense has never fluctuated. He helped the Wizards to a quality start of the season when Bradley Beal was injured. Progressively, his minutes and three-point shooting success went away. He averaged 2:38 on the floor in January before his 12-minute appearance Saturday night.

Washington has no one off the bench like Toronto’s Lou Williams. In what changed from a first-half paddling by the Raptors to an overtime possession game, Williams had two crucial and diabolical makes during the evening. Drifting left in the air, a well-challenged three-pointer left his hand with 0.9 remaining on the shot clock in second quarter. After it swished through, Temple looked to the sky and clapped his hands in frustration. It was part of a barrage of Toronto three-pointers in the first half. They made 11 over the opening two quarters and 7-of-8 in an unrelenting first 12 minutes.

A Williams twisting one-handed jumper right in front of the Wizards’ bench went in with 0.0 remaining on the shot clock, the Raptors‘ lead reduced to three points and 4:30 to play. On the bench, Drew Gooden slumped over an assistant coach. Marcin Gortat crushed a towel on his head. Wittman, his arms folded throughout the possession, moved with defenders as they chased Williams, who contains the elusiveness of a nervous chicken sprayed down with WD-40. Wittman jerked back, up and forward. When the shot went through, he froze.

“Lou Will hit a few shots that were, you know, out of this world,” Temple said.

True enough. Back on the planet, the Wizards have clear issues against the Raptors. If they expect to surpass last year’s advancement to the Eastern Conference semifinals, they’ll have to find further help internally or elsewhere. Or those jettisoned Toronto fans will have more to celebrate.


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