- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2018

There would be no jumping on the scorer’s table. There would be no heroics.

Wizards guard John Wall left the Capital One Arena court Friday slapping the hands of fans after a 102-92 loss in Game 6 to the Raptors. Bradley Beal, with his mouth guard halfway out of his mouth, did the same.

The gestures from the fans were more sympathetic, not congratulatory.

A year ago, in almost the exact same scenario, Wall hit a game-winning 3-pointer against the Boston Celtics to help stave off elimination — and, more importantly, force a Game 7. That night, Wall jumped on the scorer’s table, firing up the District crowd. There was no doubt that the Wizards were his team in his city.

But against the Raptors, Wall and the Wizards couldn’t muster the same magic. Not this year.

Instead, the Wizards were eliminated Friday, losing 4-2 in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The team’s season is over, capping off a year of inconsistencies, injuries and underperforming. On the surface, Washington lost to a perfectly respectable Toronto team, which captured the No. 1 seed with 59 wins. Still — even with Wall missing half the season with a knee injury — they could have avoided the Raptors entirely if they had just won one more game.

They dealt their own hand, and Washington watched as a superior Raptors team pulled away in the fourth quarter.

The loss marked the first time both Beal and Wall had been eliminated in the first round. Beal had a game-high 32 points, while Wall had 23.

“I’m a little bothered by that, we’re a better team than that,” Beal said. “We have high expectations for ourselves coming into the year and we fell short of them.”

The Wizards led for the majority of the game, but they couldn’t hold on in the fourth quarter. The team’s offense went cold, shooting just 25 percent in the quarter. Toronto got to the paint, and the Wizards gave up offensive rebound after offensive rebound — allowing eight of them.

The problems for the Wizards were indicative of the whole series, and perhaps the season.

Washington also blew a five-point lead in Game 5 during the fourth quarter.

“It happened throughout the year,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “We just had trouble scoring.”

The Wizards were dealt a damaging blow prior to the game, with forward Otto Porter undergoing a fasciotomy on his lower left leg to reduce the buildup of blood. Brooks said Porter suffered the injury on a contact play in Game 4 and it bothered him even more in Game 5. He added Porter didn’t have the “same pop” he normally plays with.

Porter had a slow start to the Toronto series, averaging only 10 points per game.

“You could tell when O.P.’s been healthy and when he’s not,” Wall said after Friday’s shootaround. “When he’s not slashing and cutting to the basket, you can tell he’s dealing with something.”

Washington carried on without Porter, slotting reserve Kelly Oubre into the starting lineup. For much of the season, Brooks had issues with Oubre’s inconsistency, often pleading for him to make smarter decisions on the defensive end. Entering the night, he stressed the need for Oubre to play defense and not fall for DeMar DeRozan’s pump fake.

Helping offset Porter’s loss was the fact the Wizards were on their home court, where they’ve played so much better in the playoffs.

At home, the Wizards have an edge — one that was on display in the first quarter.

The Wizards finally got off to the start Brooks had been pleading for. Beal hit forward OG Anunoby with a stepback, causing the rookie to stumble while Beal drained a three to give the Wizards a 12-4 lead.

Washington’s hot start was fueled by its ability to make baskets, hitting seven of its first nine baskets. That pace didn’t last, but they carried a 30-20 lead into the second.

Still, there were drawbacks in not having Porter available, namely his absence stretched an already thin bench with Oubre in the starting lineup. The Raptors took advantage of the minutes when Wall was the only starter on the floor, grinding the Wizards’ offense to a halt. Toronto also benefited from the return of guard Fred VanVleet, who had missed the last four meetings with a shoulder injury.

The Raptors stuck around, and seemingly answered every Wizards basket. Washington held just a 53-50 at halftime.

The contest turned into a nail-biter in the third. Toronto took its first lead, 65-64, on an easy alley-oop to DeRozan.

For the Wizards to keep up, they turned to their superstars. Wall caught Delon Wright with a chase-down block, setting up a pull-up 3-pointer from Beal in transition. The basket gave Washington a 69-67 lead. To close the quarter, Beal anchored the second unit and a Tomas Satoransky tip-in put the Wizards up 78-73 as time expired.

But in the fourth, the Raptors’ bench helped swing the game. It outworked the Wizards and made stops. The Wizards finished shooting 40.5 percent.

The Wizards are now left to wonder how exactly to improve, despite having three players under a max contract. The solution won’t be easy.

“Whoever you match up against, regardless of the [seed], you gotta go out and compete,” Beal said. “We did a good job for six games, but there are still some games we could have won early on in the series and could have one late in the series. We didn’t.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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