Raptors 95, Wizards 98 – Box

Two things I noticed. First, you know how Kevin Garnett always nabs the ball right from the rim when somebody tries to shoot after a whistle just to get a practice shot in? Ed Davis does that too. I like that, it sends a message, I’m not quite sure how to describe that message but it’s a good one. Second, whenever Sundiata Gaines was in the game I swear I thought it was Jarrett Jack.

With New Orleans, San Antonio, Orlando and Miami also coming up on this roadtrip, the normal reaction after this loss would usually have been dismay at not picking up the one winnable game in this stretch. That’s still the case even without Barbosa and Bayless, but at least we got to see some things, things like Jose Calderon abusing John Wall who didn’t look able or interested. Calderon finished with 21/9/15, and was the reason this game was within grasp until the final minute. After a horrible start, we saw Andrea Bargnani chip in with 25/7 and play decent overall defense (for him). The three negatives for me is the offensive rebound conceded to McGee for the late dunk, how he didn’t foul Yi on the break to prevent an easy dunk, and his second quarter man-defense.

Bargnani got off to a slow start offensively but Jose Calderon and Ed Davis made up for the production, and were helped by the Wizards shooting 33% in the first quarter. The 25-19 lead at the end evaporated as quickly as it was created with Andray Blatche (lazy f***er who doesn’t play D but is an OK offensive player) and the Wizards guards getting it going. The halftime score was 47-42 Wizards which was an acceptable scoreline for this snorefest. The third quarter saw Nick Young molest DeMar DeRozan for 18 points. I mean, I understand getting torched by Ray Allen but Nick Young? C’mon DeMar, show some pride and intensity. The Raptors kept relative pace thanks to Bargnani’s six and Davis (15/8), who was excellent all night long. The rookie was clever in his two-man games, ran the floor hard and presented himself very well to both Gaines and Calderon. The Wizards shot 61% in the third to edge it to a 75-67 lead.

A quick 8-2 spurt consisting of two Bargnani threes and a Gaines layup cut the lead to two and now you’re thinking it’s game-on. Julian Wright and Davis ran a great pick ‘n roll for an And1, and the game was tied at 79. The Wizards went back up by four and the only thing working on offense for the Raptors was Andrea Bargnani. He had 15 in the fourth quarter yet managed to get looked off by Kleiza and Gaines when he was wide open during that stretch after 79-79. That bit also had DeMar DeRozan get blocked by McGee (6 blocks, player of the game) which I saw coming about five seconds before it happened.

The Raps never had a chance to tie this game until after the FT-foul game had been played and there were 0.9 seconds left and Gaines missed at the buzzer (shot wouldn’t have counted). Triano did have a chance to demonstrate his late-game play-calling abilities and fell short once again. This time it was an ill-advised one-on-one Jose Calderon forced shot which airballed with 12 seconds left. Before that, the Raptors had gotten the miss they wanted but couldn’t corral the rebound despite having three bigs (Davis, Bargnani and Johnson) on the floor. Too bad, because that would’ve setup a nice final possession down two with 17 seconds left.

Some thoughts on this one:

  • Bargnani’s getting pretty good at drawing contact on the perimeter, he gets at least two or three points a game via that fake-the-jumper-and-lean move. Defensively though, man, I’m tired of saying it but the effort needs to be better. You saw last night the impact of a defensive center in Javale McGee last night, on a team full of offensive weapons a presence like that would be immense. Credit to Bargnani for taking full advantage of the Washington bigs’ inability to stick with a quick big.
  • I wouldn’t have picked this to be a bad game for DeMar DeRozan (3-11 FG), his 34 minutes are fully undeserved. If it weren’t for injuries to others, I’m sure Triano would love to nail his ass to the bench for a couple games just to send a message. The highly inconsistent sophomore has never had a proper talking-to about his effort level and defense, and I feel he gets off scott free by the fans too.
  • Surprised that Jose Calderon wasn’t put under more pressure by the Wizards. In fact, I’m surprised how bad John Wall was last night, you’d think he’d be the #1 threat for the Raptors, instead Calderon walked all over him. Again, wonderful game for Calderon, great overall distribution and his last basket where he forced a leaner was great. Calderon has always been as effective as his jumper (isn’t that true for most guards?) and this year he’s showcased himself well. It’s tempting to find out what he might fetch at the deadline.
  • Ed Davis did a great job of moving without the ball and showed that he can be a part of the structured offense instead of living off the scraps. He’s got a chemistry going with Julian Wright which the Raptors need to use more, maybe use Julian Wright as a point forward a bit more, he’s certainly shown he’s capable.
  • Everybody on the Raptors seems to have a fairly well-defined role except Linas Kleiza. He does a few things well but doesn’t quite excel at anything, he’s too poor of a shooter to spread the floor but will knock a few down when he’s hot. He’s not a great defender but can use his bulk when rebounding. He doesn’t have a one-on-one game except when he sees a seam and takes it to the rim. He’s got a little post-up game but nothing you can count on. In his best role, he’s a bench player playing the three or four on a per-matchup basis (like in Denver), not as a slotted starter at small forward. The lack of talent at that position for the Raptors has forced him into a starting role where he’ll have great nights, but mostly very mediocre ones. It’s not his fault, he’s just not a terribly snug fit on this team.

The NBA is divided into three main tiers. There are the title contenders like the Bostons and Miamis, then there are the good teams like the Denvers, Atlantas, and Utahs, and then there’s the rest of the bunch who either play the season in the name of rebuilding or hoping to take the step into the second tier. The Raptors and Wizards are in that last category, and any result here is insignificant. That’s my take on the rest of the season, I’m going to be taking the role of “development evaluator” from now on, and last night belonged to Ed Davis, not part of the Young Onez, but a good player nonetheless.

Last time the Raptors lost the “winnable” game on the roadtrip, they ended up beating Dallas short-handed. Who knows what’s coming up next…