A malfunction of the scoring system Tuesday night at Verizon Center forced the Washington Wizards to go back to the old-school days of high school basketball, with 24-second shot clocks placed on the baseline and a game clock propped up high in front of the scorer’s table.
The breakdown in technology wasn’t all that went haywire for the Wizards during a 96-88 loss to Toronto in the Wizards’ first game after a five-day all-star break. John Wall was off-target with his shot and his passes, the offense sputtered and the defense had little answer for the Raptors’ perimeter combination of Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan.
“I’ll burn it and look forward to the next one,” Wall said after matching the worst shooting night of his career, as he missed 11 of 12 shots and scored just nine points with six assists and seven turnovers. “You don’t hold your heads.”
The Wizards (15-37) got another reminder of how fleeting success can be in the NBA, with the team following up a four-game winning streak against teams in playoff contention with losses to Detroit and Toronto, two teams that would join Washington in the NBA lottery if the season ended today.
“They wanted it more than us. They outplayed us. They had two scorers, Rudy and DeMar, they came out and did their thing,” reserve forward Trevor Booker said of the Raptors. “Hopefully we can regroup. We got to take the success and we can’t let our heads get big. Some teams do that, and they fall on their face.”
Booker said the broken clocks in the arena didn’t affect the players much and that it felt “like AAU.” Timeouts and substitutions were summoned by the sound of an air horn. Players had to check at midcourt for the score or keep it their heads . The public address announcer shouted out whenever the shot clock hit 10 seconds or five seconds. And the Raptors were especially helpful as players on the bench counted down the time on the clock to allow DeRozan the chance to hit buzzer-beating shots at the end of the first two quarters.
“It brought back memories for me,” Coach Randy Wittman said with a laugh. “The shot clock on the floor. I thought I had my shorts on.”
The game may have a had a throwback feel, but the Wizards managed to turn back the clock to those dark days before Wall made his debut or Bradley Beal had begun to develop some confidence; back when scoring was laborious and focus was lacking. Wittman didn’t have an answer for Wall’s struggles, but said that at times, when the situation gets rough, his players “bleed into ‘Woe is me,’ instead of staying with it.”
Wall dropped his shoulders after missing several easy layups and his last turnover was a cross-court, baseline pass that landed in the hands of Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas. Wall never regained his form after picking up two fouls in the first quarter. “It took me out of my rhythm because I had to sit so long and tried to find my rhythm. Just careless turnovers and missed a couple of easy shots,” he said.
Beal was the Wizards’ most reliable offensive option as he returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench the previous game and scored a game-high 25 points, connecting on 3 of 6 from three-point range. Martell Webster added 16 points, Emeka Okafor had 12 and Booker, getting his first playing time in six games, added 10 points. Nene also had a forgettable shooting night from the field, as he shot just 3 of 11 and finished with seven points.
“It’s really mental with John,” Beal said. “He always wants to play well and he always tells me, I’m not always going to play well all the time, but the advice that he gives me, sometimes he needs to take his own advice. But John will be fine.”
Gay, a Baltimore native who joined the Raptors on Jan. 30 after a trade with Memphis, scored 24 points. He provided two of the more exciting plays of game, as he spun around Trevor Ariza and dunked over Okafor in the third quarter to give the Raptors a 68-57 lead. In the fourth quarter, Wall missed a driving layup that led to a fast-break dunk. Gay put the game away with a three-pointer that put the Raptors ahead 90-79 and led many fans to head to the exits.
DeRozan also had 24 points and point guard Kyle Lowry had 11 points and 10 assists for the Raptors (22-32), who have won five in a row, and gone 18-13 since a 4-19 start to the season.
Near the end of the third quarter, bored fans started chanting, “Jordan Crawford,” hoping that Wittman would finally put the team’s second-leading scorer in the game. As fans cheered for Crawford, his teammates looked over at him with amusement as he lounged on the bench, leaning to his left and taking up two seats with a towel over his head.
Before the game, Wittman didn’t deny that the Wizards would look to make a deal by the deadline, even with the team playing better in recent weeks. Crawford hasn’t seen the floor since attempting and missing a 28-foot three-pointer in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers and has been mentioned in trade rumors, with Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline looming.
“You’re always looking to improve your team. Always,” Wittman said. “Especially when you’re in our situation. We’re not by any means, I think, done looking at improving our team or in the offseason, when the season is over. We got to look at those scenarios that, if it makes sense for your team, to improve your team, you’ve got to look at it.”
As he walked off the court, Crawford took off his unused jersey and tossed it in disgust into the stands. A lucky woman caught it and another fan offered to pay $200 for it before realizing that he didn’t have enough cash in his wallet. He wasn’t the only one who came up short on this night.