The Washington Wizards’ odds of upsetting the top-ranked Toronto Raptors just got a lot longer.
Wizards swingman Otto Porter Jr. will miss Game 6 of their first-round playoff series to correct a blood-flow issue resulting from the bone bruise in his lower left leg, according to The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner. Porter reportedly would also miss Game 7 if Washington wins on Friday.
The Wizards confirmed Porter “underwent a successful left lower leg fasciotomy for compartment syndrome” — “a critical increase in pressure resulting from an injury” — on Thursday, ruling him out indefinitely. The procedure “was necessary to prevent permanent damage to the muscles in the leg.”
Though Porter gets lost in a Wizards discussion dominated by All-Star guards Bradley Beal and John Wall, he plays a vital role as a 3-and-D-and-more switching wing capable of masking many of the roster’s inefficiencies — so much so that they rewarded him with a max contract this past summer.
His absence creates a gaping hole for a Washington team already short on wings. Now, the eighth-seeded Wizards enter Game 6 trailing 3-2 against the deepest of Raptors teams without a key cog.
Porter averaged 10 points, five rebounds, 1.6 assists and 2.2 combined blocks and steals while shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range in 31.6 minutes through the first five games of the series. In that deceiving playoff sample size, Washington has performed better with Porter on the bench, but over the course of the season, no Wizards player made a greater on/off impact than the 24-year-old former No. 3 pick. The Wizards were 11.1 points per 100 possessions better with Porter on the floor.
Porter was listed as questionable on Washington’s injury report and missed Thursday’s morning shootaround, according to Buckner. He has suffered from a series of leg injuries over the past month, including an ankle sprain and calf strain in his right leg. He has been playing through a bone bruise in his left leg during the playoffs, but will reportedly undergo surgery to avoid a more severe injury.
“You could tell when O.P.’s been healthy and when he’s not,” Wall told Buckner before news of Porter’s absence broke. “When he’s not slashing and cutting to the basket, you can tell he’s dealing with something. He’s probably been dealing with it for a while, but he’s been going out there and giving us everything he’s got as a teammate. And we respect and appreciate that as much as possible.”
If the injury has lessened Porter’s impact on this series, then the Wizards may be encouraged by the knowledge that they have won two games already at home with their third option hobbled. They host the Raptors in the must-win Game 6 on Friday night. But Porter played an invaluable role in the two wins, filling the stat sheet and serving as the primary defender against Raptors star DeMar DeRozan.
The Wizards finished 1-4 in the five games Porter missed during the regular season.
Presumably, Kelly Oubre Jr. will start in Porter’s absence. The third-year guard/forward, who has engaged in a war of words with Raptors counterpart Delon Wright since Toronto’s Game 5 victory, is a trick-or-treat performer for the Wizards, and his insertion into the starting lineup leaves them extremely thin on wings off the bench. If nothing else, though, Oubre does not lack for confidence:
Still, with Kelly being Kelly he didn’t stop there.
His final comment on Delon Wright: “He can take it very personally but at the end of the day if you want to go to war, I’m the wrong person to go to war against. If I die, I’m going to come back to life and kill you.”
— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 27, 2018
For years, depth has been a downfall for a Washington team that came within one win of the Eastern Conference finals last season. Because of a talent-laden starting five, they posed a legitimate threat to Toronto, even as an eighth seed, but Porter was one of the most important factors in that equation.
The Wizards also lost reserve guard Jodie Meeks to a performance-enhancing drug suspension prior to the playoffs. Backup guard Tomas Satoransky, who did well to fill in for Wall during the regular season but has fallen down the playoff depth chart, could also see increased playing time along with Oubre.
Still, there’s no getting around this fact: Lineups featuring Porter this season outscored opponents by 5.6 points per 48 minutes, while lineups without him were outscored by 7.4 points per 48. The Wizards already had a hill to climb, needing to win two straight against the Raptors. Now it’s a mountain.
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