Wall struggles badly in 1-of-12 shooting night
The momentum that carried the Wizards into the All-Star break malfunctioned like the scoreboard at Verizon Center. But nothing was as broken as John Wall's jump shot.
The third-year point guard matched the worst shooting night of his career, missing 11 of 12 shots as the Wizards opened the final half of the season with a disjointed and listless 96-88 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
"We have to blame ourselves," said rookie Bradley Beal, who had a game-high 25 points. "We're the ones playing. We're the ones who are out there and have to make shots. We didn't put the ball in the hole, and we didn't get stops. Yes, they made a lot of tough shots, but at the end of the day, I think we gave up at the end."
DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay each had 24 points for the Raptors (22-32), who won their fifth in a row while the Wizards (15-37) bookended the All-Star break with wake-up call defeats for a team that hoped to build on recent improvement over the season's final two months.
"We gotta take the success, and we can't let our heads get big," said Trevor Booker, who had 10 points off the bench, his best outing since November. "Some teams do that, and they fall on their face."
The star of the night was the blank space on the scoreboard usually reserved for the score and time. Those in the building still trying to locate the temporary scoreboard on the sideline at midcourt might've missed Jonas Valanciunas throw down an early monster slam on Nene. An air horn signaled the game's first timeout, and the public address announcer intermittently announced the score and the seconds left on the shot clock.
Aided by a basket microphone and a muted crowd of 13,923, Toronto's bench players were clearly heard shouting down the clock so DeRozan knew how much time was left to bury a floater over Beal with 0.6 seconds left in the first quarter.
"It was like AAU ball," Booker said.
The rust bothered the Wizards more than the lack of modern technology. Wall (nine points, six assists, seven turnovers) never found his rhythm and despite three steals and two blocks couldn't make up for his litany of mistakes.
"It's really mental with John," Beal said. "John wants to play well every game. Like he always tells me, I'm not going to play well every game. The advice he gave me, sometimes he can take his own advice."
Gay hung on the rim after getting fouled on a baseline dunk before draining his free throw to match the Raptors' biggest lead, 68-57, and he made sure it was a game tape for Wall to destroy late, turning another turnover into a huge right-handed slam.
"I'll burn it," Wall said. "Burn it and look forward to the next one. It's the first game back off break, and you don't hold your heads for nothing."
One player did: Jordan Crawford, who had his fourth straight game without any playing time. After spending the evening reclining on the bench with a towel over his head, he tossed his jersey into the stands as he left the court after the final whistle.