Trevor Ariza sat on the court, arms draped around his knees and shook his head as Nene tried to help him up. Ariza flashed an uncomfortable grin. He had just picked up his second offensive foul in less than three minutes, plowing through Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, and decided to voice his displeasure to official Joey Crawford — twice.
Crawford slapped Ariza with a technical for his remarks and quickly tossed him out of a game the Washington Wizards never really showed up to play. As Ariza lowered his head and walked toward the locker room, his teammates probably got envious.
At least he didn’t have to stick around for a lifeless 101-88 loss to the Toronto Raptors that highlighted some disturbing patterns for a Wizards team clearly incapable of handling even modest prosperity. With an opportunity to pull their record back to .500, the Wizards instead were dominated by a Raptors team that has been rejuvenated following a trade that shipped Rudy Gay to Sacramento last month.
“Shocked,” Coach Randy Wittman said, describing his reaction to a performance in which the Wizards trailed by 26 points in the third quarter. “Very disappointing. We had creep in for the first time in a long time more selfish play than we’ve had. And we’ve proven over the last couple of years, you can’t play that way.”
Though the Raptors entered the game a half-game better in the standings, the separation appeared to be canyon-sized. Toronto offered a beautiful display of ball movement and team play, handing out 29 assists compared to 19 for the Wizards. Washington offered little resistance, with half-hearted efforts on both ends and the Verizon Center crowd expressed its frustration with boos throughout the second half.
John Wall had his streak of 20-point games come to an end as he scored just 11. He added six assists but none in the second half when the Raptors held the Wizards without a field goal for nearly nine minutes and forced their starters to make early preparations for Sunday’s home game against the Golden State Warriors. Wall disagreed with Wittman’s assessment about selfish play.
“I don’t see that at all. I think we’re playing the right way, we’re playing as a team. You can’t say that,” Wall said after the Wizards’ five-game winning streak against Eastern Conference opponents came to an end. “I feel like we didn’t have enough spacing. You couldn’t penetrate if you wanted to, you couldn’t get open shots and you give credit to [Toronto’s] defense. We couldn’t find a rhythm and they ran away with the lead.”
Being at home has provided little comfort for the Wizards (14-16), who have lost five of six at Verizon Center, where they are just 7-7. In 24 home games with Wall last season, the Wizards only lost six.
“When you’re at home, you would think you’d play a lot harder,” Bradley Beal said after scoring 12 points on 6-of-16 shooting. “We were real sluggish. We weren’t there mentally or physically.”
The first possession of the game ended with the team collecting a shot-clock violation after Wall rushed a desperation three-point shot that hit all backboard. Marcin Gortat later was trapped in the left corner and tossed a cross-court pass that sailed over Ariza and landed about three rows behind the Wizards’ bench. Gortat then threw a simple inbounds pass to Wall that squirted out of the guard’s hands and rolled out of bounds.
The Wizards trailed, 14-5, in the first four minutes and forced Wittman to call an early timeout. They made a solid run in the second quarter and evened the score at 45 when Ariza pulled up for a three-pointer. Lowry responded with a three-pointer to send his team into the break with the lead.
Toronto then ambushed Washington in the third period when Ariza was sent to the showers and the Wizards were outscored 36-16. Washington shot just 3 of 16 from the field (18.8 percent), committed seven turnovers, which led to 11 points, and surrendered seven offensive rebounds in the period. Toronto’s Terrence Ross, who played briefly at Montrose Christian, made four three-pointers in the period, accounting for 12 of his 14 points.
“At times it looked like we didn’t want to play. It was pretty embarrassing,” Trevor Booker said after scoring eight points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. “Honestly, I don’t think it was anything they did. If you watch the game, you see the way we came out. It was just terrible.”
In one third-quarter sequence, Wall raced to save a loose ball — right to District native Patrick Patterson, his former college teammate at Kentucky. When Patterson made a short baseline jumper – part of a personal 11-0 run to end the period and give Toronto an 84-61 lead — Wall looked toward the ceiling and rolled his eyes.
Lowry had 19 points and 11 assists and DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 20 points as Toronto won its fifth straight game and improved to 10-3 since dealing Gay.
Nene had a team-high 15 points as five different players scored in double figures for the Wizards. Martell Webster also had 12 points and Ariza only had six points in 21 minutes. Wittman hoped that his players got the message that they won’t win if they don’t play together.
“I hope it’s a smack in the face,” Wittman said. “I hope it’s 20 degrees below zero and they get smacked in the face outside with that, too. Maybe that’ll wake them up.”