About as easy as a road game gets in the NBA.
The Raptors did their best to gift this one to the listless Washington Wizards, but the team from the boys from D.C. refused to accept the victory.
DeMar DeRozan had a solid night offensively, but it was probably Amir Johnson’s superb interior defense that made the greater overall impact in the victory.
Scratch that, it was John Wall who really made the difference. 1 for 12 from the field with 7 turnovers is not pretty. A great physical talent, but right now is not getting the right coaching or guidance to help his team win games.
Rudy Gay continues to be Rudy Gay. Inefficient offensively, but still coming through for the team when things are getting tight. It’s sacrilege right now to say anything truly negative about the new Raptor golden boy, but here it is. The man has such good speed and dribbles that he gets by pretty much anyone his size if he wants to, and he has been doing that quite frequently as a Raptor, so good on him. But….but, but, but he almost never takes advantage of the other team’s broken down defense by delivering a good pass. It’s the one skill he lacks, which happens to be the same issue that DeRozan has had his whole career and is only now taking steps to rectify. It would really turn him into something truly special, if he learned to make that pass off the bounce. He’s so talented that he’s been able to make really tough shots his whole career, so he’s never felt it necessary to defer in those situations, but the results bear out a string of sub-par shooting performances. That will eventually catch up to him, perhaps not against the Wizards, but against the type of teams that the Raptors have to climb over to challenge for the playoffs.
Make no mistake though. His impact on this team is of ultimate importance, especially the way the NBA is structured. A go-to scorer that has the respect of the officials. The latter part is just as important as any. Case in point, Gay gets fouled on the way up against Nene. The call itself wasn’t blatant, it could have been argued that Gay initiated the contact. But that’s besides the point. Rudy went off on the official, for a while in a very public display of anger. Yes, he did get a technical after a prolonged verbal attack, but the next offensive possession he gets what looks like a borderline call on a post-up. Clearly a make-up call that someone like DeMar DeRozan or any other Raptor would have not have gotten, unless it was a really bad call on home court.
But he could be so much better if he kept his head up while driving, is the point here. Or if the rest of his team actually ran to a spot where they can accept the pass, rather than gaze in awe/admiration.
So the Raptor defense was pretty solid, as much as the Wizards helped in making them look good, but there were stretches when yes, Andrea Bargnani, was in there and it really was painfully obvious how the interior defense suffered when he was on. 26 minutes is too much, even against this team, and that’s all the space and effort that will be expunged on this topic.
About the point guard play. Solid, but not spectacular, although John Lucas has been resembling a backup NBA point right now. Actually he’s morphed into something of an off-guard because the assist totals are down from earlier in the year. This is a Lucas who is in Alan Anderson mode, except the little man can actually shoot. In fact, he’s the best long-range shooter this team now has, although Kyle Lowry would be in the conversation. Why Lowry doesn’t shoot the three more is another issue in itself.
It’s the confidence factor for John. He may be on the wiser side of thirty, but he’s a pup in terms of NBA experience. Small guys in the NBA have all been ultra-confident, and you see that since that watershed game against New Orleans, he’s been looking for his shot. Two notable plays were his stare-down three late in the game from the corner and an acrobatic layup, also in the fourth. Pleasant surprise right now for the Raptors, but they still need another point guard for depth.
So five games in a row, which is great, but the best part about it is that it doesn’t feel like it’s happening with smoke and mirrors. This team now looks talented enough to pull of victories even when it’s not playing it’s “A” game and that’s what helps over the grind of an 82 game schedule.