The fourth and final meeting between the two playoff bound teams this season, produced the most thrilling game of the series and multiple nail biting finishes. A 3 and a half hour game was won by the Washington Wizards in triple overtime, defeating the Raptors 134-129 and for the 1st time this season. This ended up being the Raptors’ longest game in franchise history, at 3 hours and 32 minutes, surpassing the old record 3:22 against the Nets in London in 2011.
Raptors took he lead after the 1st, 27-21. But the Wizards were already back into the game midway through the 2nd, and the Raptors suffered a big loss to their lineup when 2nd year guard Terrence Ross tweaked his ankle on a drive to the basket near the end of the quarter, and would not return.
Washington started off hot in the 2nd half, jumping out to a double digit lead, but the Raptors would make it close, led by the usual suspects–Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, both combining for 22 of the Raptors 24 points in the quarter, finishing the 3rd quarter on a 13-5 run.
Greivis Vasquez stepped up in the absence of Ross, filling in the void and absorbing most of the minutes. Vasquez led the Raptors in the 4th, and finishing with 26 points on 11/19 FG and 8 assists.
With Jonas Valancinuas on the bench for the 4th quarter, Wizards’ center Marcin Gortat was able to have his way with the Raptors in the paint. Getting into any position he desired, including wide open under the basket for the game tying put back to tie the game at 106 and eventually force overtime.
Post-game Coach Dwane Casey acknowledged that it wasn’t fair that Jonas Valancinuas had sat for a long period between the 4th quarter and overtime, but explained his logic behind the benching.
“It really wasn’t fair to Jonas, it wasn’t his fault. But with Gortat, I thought Pat [Patterson] and Amir [Johnson] again with our speed and quickness. He’s not the typical post up guy, he’s out in the perimeter setting screens, rolling and running the floor, drag screening. And then they started blitzing the pick and roll, so we needed somebody setting the screen that could cornerback out of that,” Casey explained. “Couple times we tried to do that, they blitzed him and we had a couple turnovers.”
Having Patrick Patterson foul out early into the overtime period, forced the Raptors to go to an even smaller lineup, inserting forward John Salmons. Amir Johnson also picked up his 6th foul with 1 minute to go, and in came JV.
On losing their key players, coach Dwane Casey said it was a case of ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’.
“We lost three key players, and losing Terrence [Ross]. And you don’t miss something until you don’t have it,” Casey said. “It gives us one more defender, shot maker, and that was a huge blow for us.”
“Even T-Ross, never thought I’d say it, but we missed him. Our deck wasn’t full and I thought it hurt us. We had to go with Demar longer, didn’t get a blow until probably about the 2 minute mark. So he went longer minutes in that stretch in the 3rd quarter because we didn’t have Terrence.” Casey said.
Kyle Lowry attempted both the game winners at the end of the 4th—which Lowry turned his ankle, landing on Gortat, but remained in the game—and in overtime, both times coming up short on drives to the basket. Leading to a double overtime.
On going to Kyle Lowry on the two potential game winners, “We were mixing it up, we tried to go to Kyle with the matchup. We went to Greivis also down the stretch because of the matchup to kind of keep them off guard, use Demar as a decoy. The one time he did come off and drive, the next option was Greivis coming off a pin down, ” Casey explained. “So I think to help Demar in these next games, have other options to go to, to mix it up. And that way they just can’t lock in on him in in-game situations.”
The coach also updated the status going forward with or without his two injured starters.
“Yeah he [Lowry] stayed in, but he turned his ankle really bad on that game winning play, and also Terrence, both guys. We’ll have to see for Sunday what they’re going to do,” Casey said. “Next man up, somebody’s going to have to step up and be ready to play. We’ll have to get Nando [de Colo] ready.”
The complete exhaustion finally set in for both teams in the 2nd extra quarter. A 5-minute quarter that saw a handful of sloppy play and turnovers, as evidenced by an eventual 4-4 score. Bradley Beal was a few tenths of a second from running away with the victory, making a basket just after the 2nd overtime buzzer sounded. And they were headed to triple overtime.
The war of attrition finally came to a conclusion in the 3rd overtime, 15 extra minutes later, there was a winner of this marathon game. Raptors’ All-Star Demar Derozan took control of the game in the 3rd OT, scoring 8 of the Raptors’ 11 points. While the Raptors lost their 4th player of the game, as Kyle Lowry fouled out just 1 rebound shy of a triple double [18 points, 9 rebounds, 10 assists].
But in the end, the Washington Wizards just had a little bit more in the gas tank towards the finish line, despite 4 of their starters playing in and around 50 minutes. Two key defensive plays leading to Vasquez’s turnovers–quickly going from hero to goat—and easy baskets on the other end. As well as Derozan missing both free throws at the line, twice. Eventually the Wizards’ MVP of the game, Marcin Gortat would foul out with a career high 31 points, 12 rebounds—but the Wizards were able to close it out to avoid the season sweep.
Despite Demar’s best efforts in the 3rd overtime, he felt that the team just didn’t get that one crucial stop in the game to secure them the victory.
“We just ran out of time,” Derozan said. “All we needed was one stop, one rebound, one bucket. We just couldn’t get it. And they scored when they needed to. We scored when we needed to, but we didn’t get a stop when we needed to.”
Raptors will have two days to rest and recover before the Golden State Warriors come to town on Sunday afternoon. A much needed rest for Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry, who played 57 and 54 minutes respectively.
“The body hurts a little bit more when you lose a game like this,” Johnson said. “We’re going regroup, go over film, rest our bodies and come back stronger.”