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Wizards' Wall, Beal have way with Raptors defense

In Toronto, Washington guards set up team with 2-0 lead

POSTED: Apr 22, 2015 9:42 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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John Wall and Bradley Beal combine for 54 points in Game 2 victory.

John Wall and Bradley Beal combine for 54 points to help give the Wizards a 2-0 series lead.

— In a first round series between two teams that lost their way in the second half of the season, the Washington Wizards have been the first to return to form. And it's no coincidence that, even when things weren't going well, the team whose defense held up is the team with a 2-0 series lead.

The Wizards sliced up the Toronto Raptors' bottom-10 defense to the tune of 71 points on 47 possessions over the second and third quarters on their way to a 117-106 victory in Game 2 on Tuesday. Washington is now 7-1 on the road over the last two postseasons, with more road wins over teams with winning records in the first four days of these playoffs (2) than they had in the last three months of the regular season (1).

The backcourt comparison in this series is unavoidable. And in Game 2, the difference between the two backcourts provided a great storyline. Washington's John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 54 points on 20-for-37 shooting on Tuesday, more than doubling the scoring output of Toronto's Kyle Lowry (six points) and DeMar DeRozan (20). Wall added a career-playoff-high 17 assists.

Inside the NBA: Wizards-Raptors Game 2 Analysis

The guys discuss the impressive play of the Washington Wizards who take a 2-0 series lead over the slumping Toronto Raptors.

But those numbers aren't an indictment of the Raptors' backcourt, because they were a product of Toronto's overall team defense.

In an attempt to fix their rebounding issues from Game 1, the Raptors played softer defense on Wall. They were successful in keeping him out of the paint; He drove just three times on 33 pick-and-rolls. And they allowed just 10 offensive rebounds and 12 second chance points, after giving up 19 and 20 on Saturday.

But after a few jumpers early, Wall didn't settle. Instead, he used the extra space to find passing lanes and take advantage of Jonas Valanciunas' slow feet and the other Raptors' slow rotations.

"He's the best passer in the game," Paul Pierce said afterward. "When you see him racking up the assists like that, and then putting the scoring with it, he's the best point guard in the league. With the combination of those two things and the defense, I don't see a better point guard. And he showed it tonight."

For Wall, it was a matter of pace. Early offense is good offense.

"We were accepting the trap last game and picking up our dribble, and we didn't keep the pace that we wanted," Wall said. "With our pace of getting the ball up the court faster, it was tough for them to rotate."

For the second straight game, the Wizards turned a deficit into a lead when they played small, with Pierce at power forward, in the second quarter. With more offensive weapons on the floor, they stretched out the Raptors' defense, which broke down too easily. And a few sloppy Toronto turnovers produced some additional easy baskets on the other end.

"It started off with transition and not getting back," Raptors forward Patrick Patterson said. "A couple of lapses as far as communicating on ball screens. The guards pushing one way and the bigs caught another way. Lack of being on the same page in that area."

Lowry Limps Off

Kyle Lowry gets tangled up with a defender and has to head to the locker room.

The Raptors were better offensively on Tuesday than they were in Game 1. DeRozan beat Pierce for some early buckets and finished with 20 points on 9-for-18 shooting, adding seven assists. But with Lowry shooting 3-for-10, getting in foul trouble early in the second quarter, and then suffering a shin contusion midway through the fourth, the hosts simply couldn't keep up with the Wizards, who seemed to be going downhill most of the night.

After the second quarter, the Wizards had the Raptors on their heels. And now they have them in an 0-2 hole, with the series heading to Washington for Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday. Of the 21 previous teams in NBA history who have lost Games 1 and 2 of a seven-game series at home, only three have come back to win the series.

For Toronto to have a chance at being No. 4, they have to figure things out defensively. The problem is that they've been trying to do that for more than four months. And they haven't found any answers.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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