The Washington Wizards entered the fourth quarter with a five-point lead Friday, but soon watched the game — and their season — slip away.
The top-seeded Toronto Raptors’ “Bench Mob” led a comeback on the road to win 102-92 in Game 6 to close out the first round of the Eastern Conference playoff series.
The Raptors’ bench outscored Washington’s reserves 34-20.
The Wizards went cold at the worst time, shooting just 4 of 16 from the floor in the fourth quarter, in which they were outscored 29-14.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey praised key reserve guard Fred VanVleet, who had missed the series’ first five games with a shoulder injury.
VanVleet had five points and four assists in almost 19 minutes of action, but Casey said his impact was greater than the numbers show.
“He is kind of the engine, the toughness,” Casey said. “It really propelled Pascal [Siakam] and those other guys [with] some confidence. I thought he did a heck of a job guarding [Bradley] Beal. He can run pick-and-rolls. On top of all of that, you have an opportunity to rest Kyle [Lowry] and DeMar [DeRozan].”
Toronto’s All-Star backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan scored 24 and 16, respectively, to lead the way.
The Wizards’ All-Star guard tandem Beal and John Wall scored 55 of the team’s 92 points, but had to play heavy minutes to cover for starting small forward Otto Porter Jr., who had been ruled out for the rest of the series prior to game time with a lower left leg injury.
“When you lose in the playoffs, you don’t feel good,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. “We have a team that doesn’t feel good. We should be upset that we didn’t get a chance to spend another day in Toronto and play against them in Game 7. Game 7s are awesome. They’re not a lot of them that happen throughout the playoffs. We missed that opportunity.”
The Wizards squandered plenty of chances during the regular season to earn a better seed in the playoffs. Washington lost about a dozen games to sub-.500 teams, including two of the last three regular season games to the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic.
Injuries also affected the team this season, most notably with Wall, who missed about two months following left knee surgery before returning just prior to the start of the playoffs.
Beal and center Marcin Gortat were the only two starters who played all 82 games in the regular season and six playoff games.
“For those guys to compete the way they did and for Brad to have a MVP-type season for our team and make even more strides is big-time for us,” said Wall, who finished with 23 points and eight assists Friday. “He held it down for us … and made it a fun season for us. Other than that, it’s disappointing for me to have to miss so many games.
“These 14 guys are my brothers and they held it down and gave ourselves an opportunity to be in the playoffs and compete,” he said. “That’s what we did.”