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Wizards-Raptors playoffs guide: Everything you need to know for the first round

John Wall is doing John Wall things. (Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports)
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The Washington Wizards stumbled into the postseason, losing five of their last six games, then lost the first two games of their series on the road to the Toronto Raptors. But they protected home court, winning Games 3 and 4 at home to knot the series at 2-2. In Game 5, the Wizards were in control, up five in the fourth quarter, but blew a golden chance to take a 3-2 lead.

Here’s all the information you need to follow this first-round series. This post will be updated with results and news throughout.

Series overview

2018 NBA Playoffs, Round 1: Washington Wizards (No. 8 seed, 43-39, 2nd in Southeast Division) vs. Toronto Raptors (No. 1 seed, 59-23, 1st in Atlantic Division)

Schedule and results

Game 1: at Raptors 114, Wizards 106
Game 2: at Raptors 130, Wizards 119
Game 3: at Wizards 122, Raptors 103
Game 4: at Wizards 106, Raptors 98
Game 5: at Raptors 108, Wizards 98
Game 6: Friday at Washington, time TBD, NBCSW
Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday at Toronto, time and television TBD

Season series recap: 2-2

Nov. 5: Wizards 107, at Raptors 96
Nov. 19: at Raptors 100, Wizards 91
Feb. 1: at Wizards 122, Raptors 119
March 2: Raptors 102, at Wizards 95

The latest

>> If the Wizards can win the last two games, they’ll become just the sixth No. 8 seed in NBA history to beat a No. 1 seed and advance to the second round. Only one other No. 8 seed — the 1994 Denver Nuggets — has pulled off the feat after losing the first two games of the series. No team has done it since the first round expanded to best-of-seven. The Wizards would be the first.

>> The Wizards’ quiet hero? Marcin Gortat. Through four games, Gortat leads all players in the postseason by averaging 6.8 screen assists per game, the statistic that measures how often his blocking moves on the offensive end have created points for teammates.

>> Bradley Beal’s sixth foul in Game 4 felt like a call that would haunt the end of the Wizards’ season. Except, amazingly, it wasn’t. The team that failed to inspire for much of this season, that left you constantly wondering why it couldn’t be a normal, stable playoff team, did something unexpected without Beal in the final five minutes. And this time, it was delightful, writes Jerry Brewer. Meanwhile, John Wall is dictating the rules of engagement. He is making this series a street fight and a street race. It seems an odd combination, but not to him.

>> Speaking of Beal, he’s not speaking about the refs. When the topic of “officiating” came up, Beal’s silent expression said everything. “He doesn’t want to get fined,” joked a team staffer who was standing near the exchange.

>> The Wizards aren’t yet a team that can quietly and methodically play to a standard with consistency. They are an emotional volcano. This first-round series is interesting now because the Wizards have erupted, writes Jerry Brewer.

>> Bradley Beal is back. Friday night, the Wizards guard reclaimed the smooth shooting stroke that elevated him to 13th in the NBA in scoring and resulted in the sixth-year player’s first all-star selection. Another player rising to the occasion in Game 3? Kelly Oubre Jr.

>> On Saturday night, the league announced a $25,000 fine for Markieff Morris for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official.”

>> The Wizards need to turn up the defense if they hope to get back into this series. Problem is, that’s a very big ask. According to Neil Greenberg, the biggest liabilities for Washington in the half court are Kelly Oubre Jr., Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal. All four rank in the bottom 20 percent of NBA players in the postseason for points allowed per possessions and each is hurting the Wizards in different ways.

>> The Wizards didn’t seem disappointed by their Game 2 loss, so Jerry Brewer wonders: maybe they’re too chill for their own good? “It would be understandable if they had reason to brush off the game as an aberration, if they were a team that didn’t have recurring problems with focus and transferring preparation onto the court. But that is part of their enigmatic identity. You needed the reassurance of feeling their emotions and sensing their urgency. You will have to trust them, however. Good luck.”

>> Any way you judge the Wizards — with or without John Wall, at their best or worst, home or road, bickering or harmonious, big game or run-of-the-mill affair — they do one thing with stunning consistency: Flub the fourth quarter. They close games like they are trying to slam the heaviest door ever made. If they don’t summon more late-game strength, their season of what ifs and not quites will end with a few last “We had ’em, but . . . ” regrets, writes Jerry Brewer.

>> John Wall thought he was “fat” when the season opened. During this two-month layoff to rehab from knee surgery, Wall and his personal remolded his diet and body. He’s dropped almost 15 pounds, enabling him to play lighter on his feet. Here’s how that diet looks. Speaking of Wall, Tom Boswell thinks the Wizards star needs to shoot a whole lot less.

>> Ty Lawson, who agreed Friday to a deal with the Wizards for the rest of the season, did not play in Game 1 against the Toronto Raptors, but he has more postseason experience over the past two weeks than anyone in this series. Still, it’s unclear whether Lawson will actually see minutes.

>> The Raptors and Wizards are such comparable peers. They’ve both been building toward their current rosters since 2010. They both broke through to the playoffs in 2014. But after the Wizards swept the Raptors in the 2015 playoffs, Toronto made the conference final the next season while Washington still hasn’t advanced beyond the second round. So while the Wizards and Raptors once had similar trajectories, now Toronto has clearly surged ahead, writes Jerry Brewer.

>> No one player can be blamed for the Wizards’ defensive mistakes in Game 1. But Kelly Oubre Jr. often draws the ire of his coach because he flashes so much skill on the defensive end but negates the potential with youthful miscues. He played 10 fewer minutes than his season average in Saturday’s game as a result.

>>The top of the Wizards’ roster might be a little better than the Raptors’ best players. On Saturday night, however, the Raptors sent a strong initial message about who they are during a 114-106 victory in Game 1 at Air Canada Centre. In short, they’re better — clearly better — than Washington, writes Jerry Brewer. These aren’t two teams striding alongside each other on the same journey. The Raptors have pulled ahead, and if you’re expecting them to slow down so the Wizards can catch up, that’s not how this is going to go. If the Wizards hope to win this series — or even become a threat to win — they will have to accelerate.

>> Anyone expecting Wizards guards John Wall and Bradley Beal to preview their first-round tilt against the Raptors by proclaiming themselves as “the best backcourt in the NBA” will be disappointed. Washington’s duo holds their northern rivals’ Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan in high esteem.

>> While Toronto is the East’s top seed, the Wizards are still attempting to complete the task of finding themselves, which might be a greater challenge than the daunting opponent, writes Jerry Brewer.

>> In his postseason predictions, Tim Bontemps writes of Raptors-Wizards, “I want to pick Washington to win this series. The Wizards match up well with Toronto and have shown no fear for them this season … But it’s just impossible to put that much faith in this Wizards team after the way they’ve played this season.” He says it’s Toronto in seven games.

>> Though they’re the underdogs, the Wizards view a matchup with Toronto much more favorably than some of the other teams with lower seeds. And while the Wizards struggled all season with under .500 teams, just as they did on Wednesday in the loss to the Magic, they knocked off nine playoff-bound opponents after the all-star break. They also split the regular-season series with Toronto, players reasoned, and five-time all-star John Wall didn’t play a second in the four games.

>> Bradley Beal reached a personal milestone, playing all 82 games of the regular season. It’s the first time in his six years as a professional that he can claim the Iron Man distinction. But here’s the downside of the 82-game distinction: Beal enters the postseason having logged more minutes than any playoff-bound Washington player since 2008.

>> The Wizards’ struggles over the last couple weeks of the regular season were cause for much hand-wringing in Washington. Coach Scott Brooks used words like “selfish” and “embarrassing.” Among the possible reasons for the slide? Teams figuring out the sets Brooks ran when Wall was sidelined, according to one NBA scout. “If you run the same things week in and week out and those things don’t change, those become stale,” said the scout, who saw the Wizards several times both with and without Wall. “The league doesn’t take that long to adjust to that.”

>> Speaking of Brooks labeling the Wizards, he has often used the word “unacceptable” to describe his team’s play. Actually, we compiled all the times Brooks and Beal said that very word.

>> John Wall returned from his injury and resumed his all-star status by averaging a double-double in points and assists. But Wall and his Wizards teammates are trying to rekindle their chemistry of the past, and their efforts have produced moments of miscommunication.

>> You see it before every game: A double tap, a head bob, a floor brush. Here are the Wizards’ pregame handshakes, explained.

>> Regular season success isn’t foreign to the Raptors, who have exceeded 50 wins each of the past two seasons. But in the postseason, the Raptors have clammed up, needing every ounce of their energy to escape from their first-round series and then continuing to struggle against actual contenders. Tim Bontemps explains how Toronto changed its approach this season in hopes of getting a different result.

>> The Raptors have the NBA’s best bench and have had a strong reserve unit for a while — their 2015 team actually had a higher bench BPM than their starters, which is unprecedented for a good team. But the reliance on the bench is also one of the causes of Toronto’s disappointing playoff results. Here’s a deeper look at the Raptors bench, with some names you may not recognize who are making a big impact.

>> Neil Greenberg crunched the numbers and the Raptors have the second-best chances of winning the title this season at 22.1 percent. The Wizards? Eh, you don’t want to know. But there’s better news for the Wizards: Washington has a 12 percent chance of upsetting Toronto in the opening round. So that’s something!

>> Finally, here’s a complete schedule for the NBA’s first round, with some quick analysis from Tim Bontemps.

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