It takes a certain kind of skill to lose like the Washington Wizards did Monday night against the Toronto Raptors. It's not that we've never seen a blown lead before in the NBA, they happen all the time, but to lose in the way Washington did is truly astounding and really just a perfect encapsulation of what their season has been so far.
Wizards rookie guard Bilal Coulibaly had a transition dunk with 7:25 remaining in the fourth quarter to give Washington a 16-point lead, and it ended up being the last field goal Washington would make for the rest of the game. You read that right, the Wizards, up by as much as 23 points at one point, made just one free throw in the last seven minutes of the game and ended up losing 111-107 to the Raptors.
This wasn't just a case of a team going ice cold, oh no, the Wizards looked like they were just zapped of all their basketball skill like the Monstars did to Charles Barkley and other NBA players in Space Jam. How else would you explain the following series of events?
The first "oh no" moment came with just around five minutes left when Kyle Kuzma wanted head coach Wes Unseld Jr. to challenge the possession call on this play. The only problem is, as Kuzma was running toward the bench pleading his case for his team to challenge, the Raptors had a 5-on-4 advantage and scored this bucket:
A few minutes later after Toronto went on a 16-1 run and regained the lead with eight seconds left, this is how the Wizards' game-tying possession went:
Deni Avdija inbounded the ball to Kuzma...who immediately stepped out of bounds. Despite the turnover, though, there was still enough time for Washington to foul the Raptors, hope they miss one of their free throws, get the ball back and tie it up to send it to overtime. That would be the logical move, at least. Instead, when Toronto inbounded the ball to Dennis Schroder, Jordan Poole was half-heartedly chasing him around the court like when you playfully chase your dog around the house.
It burned five seconds off the clock, and after Schroder made both free throws, this was the final play for the Wizards to end the game, a turnover from Kuzma:
The craziest thing about this whole situation is Toronto wasn't even playing particularly good basketball down the stretch. The Raptors turned the ball over six times in the fourth quarter, but the Wizards just made one mental mistake after the other, on top of missing multiple easy, unchallenged layups to throw this game away.
The entire situation was the perfect example to describe how the Wizards have been playing basketball as of late. Washington is off to a 2-8 start on the season, and despite many people expecting Poole to put up huge numbers on his new team, he's averaging just 16.2 points on 41.2% from the field, while also shooting 30.3% from deep.
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The Wizards are looking like the worst team in the NBA right now, but the silver lining is that the worse this team is the better their draft selection could be in 2024 because that's just how things work in the NBA. Washington's first-round pick is protected if it lands anywhere from 1-12, otherwise, it goes to New York. Tanking may be the move for the Wizards, but that still doesn't make anyone feel better about the start this team's gotten out to. Poole is owed $95.53 million over the next three years, while Kuzma is owed $64.42 million during the span, and neither has looked worth that money so far this season.
There's still plenty of basketball to be played, so the Wizards could turn things around to at least look like a competent team. But right now they're playing more like the Washington Generals, and not like a team that was expected to at least compete for a play-in spot.