Raptors 96, Wizards 88: Three observations

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Sports,Pick and Roll,Craig Stouffer

That was some glorious return from the All-Star break for the Wizards, now wasn’t it? From the scoreboard that didn’t work, including the time and shot clock normally kept above the backboards, to Wale getting in a feud with the Toronto Raptors broadcasters, who called him a local rapper and said he was ‘no Drake,’ to the random “Jor-dan Craw-ford!” chant that sprang to life late as the Wizards failed to generate any consistent offensive flow and as Crawford himself remained reclined at the end of the bench throughout the game.

Yes, the 96-88 loss set a couple key storylines in motion for the final part of the season:

*Something has to happen with Crawford. But he’s sabotaging his own trade value. His demeanor on the bench may or may not have gone unnoticed by Wizards coach Randy Wittman during the game. But it won’t be overlooked, and more importantly, his jersey toss into the stands as he exited the game won’t be forgotten. At some level, that was a signal that Crawford is done with a team that currently doesn’t have any minutes for him. The trade deadline is less than two days away.

Crawford is a player that on the court has value as a scorer off the bench. He could have that with the Wizards, maybe, but he’s not getting back his old role – the one where he started and played significant minutes – in Washington. The question is what team, if any, will offer the Wizards something decent in return to take him? His behavior doesn’t help in that respect, and it’s not going to get him back into Wittman’s good graces either. If he stays, do we have an Andray Blatche situation here?

*Bradley Beal and John Wall were both in Houston for All-Star weekend. That’s about the only thing they had in common tonight. Beal finished with 25 points and took his teammates to task afterward. Wall had 11 missed shots, nine points, seven turnovers and six assists in one of the worst nights of his NBA career and had little to blame but Raptors players getting their hands in passing lanes.

“I think as a team and as an individual, you have to be mentally tough to be able to say, ‘Okay, what else can I do to impact the game,’” Beal said. “I think that’s what I learned early in the year. I did the same thing. When I have bad games now, I still get frustrated, but I just play. If I’m not making shots, I’ll just play good defense. There’s always things in a game that you can do.”

Wall has a contract extension to play for over the final 30 games, and he didn’t get off to a good start. Despite his positive influence on the team since his return, Wall has work to do if he wants to be considered one of the NBA’s elite point guards. Every poor showing he has cuts into that effort and hurts his argument for a maximum deal.

Meanwhile, Beal is emerging not just as Wall’s running mate in the backcourt but his equal and potentially even more. He was angry and frustrated at the end of the game and wasn’t afraid to say so afterward. That speaks as loud as his scoring.

*The delicate balance of the currently constructed Wizards roster is again proving itself hard to maintain. That, or the Wizards just coasted into the All-Star break and right back out of it – which is partly to be expected for a team that is still learning how to win consistently and must stick with dreaming of the playoffs since they can’t expect them to be a reality. Either way, the next two days should be as interesting as a spat between a rapper and a visiting team broadcaster during an NBA game.

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