DeRozan was one of seven Raptors to score at least five points in the opening half, while Wall had 19 points through the opening 24 minutes, but got little help, aside from big men Marcin Gortat, Nene and Trevor Booker, who scored, but were wretched inside, allowing 60 Raptors points in the paint. Wall managed only three more the rest of the way. “One thing with us, we adjust well,” DeRozan said afterward about what changed when defending Wall. “We understand we can’t continue to make the same mistakes if it’s one player or if it’s team defence.” Casey said the team made adjustments with how the big men were helping on Wall and it paid dividends. “Amir came in and gave us a bit more quickness at the point of the screen which helped us a lot,” he said.
You have to give Casey a lot of credit for the adjustments made at half. Wall scored only 3 points in the entire 2nd half; the Raptors did a much better job of showing and rotating on pick and rolls. The mode of attack was also quite different. Kyle Lowry had been relatively quiet to that point, but dominated the Wizards with 18 points in the 2nd half (and 14 in the 3rd quarter) to stretch the Raptor lead to 20. After Randy Wittman got himself ejected for arguing a charge call, the Wizards put together a spirited comeback with 2 minutes left and cut the lead to 7, but couldn’t get it any closer as the Raptors hung on for the 103-93 win.
There’s no question the Toronto Raptors are a better team than the Wizards. Significantly better, in fact. This 103-93 win — the Raptors’ third over the Wizards’ this season and the second decisive one on Washington’s home floor — only drove home that point further. They are deeper. They are longer. They are more versatile. They are more physical. They play much more cohesively, both offensively and defensively. And frankly, they are better coached. This is simultaneously a credit to them and a black mark on the Wizards, who constructed a team that should have been as good as Toronto, but isn’t.
The Raptors are just a really bad match up for the Wizards. Their big men have constantly taken advantage of Washington’s inconsistent interior defense, while John Wall is forced to carry them offensively while trying to contain Kyle Lowry on the defensive side of the floor. Randy Wittman was ejected in the fourth quarter, which sparked Washington, but it was all too late at that point. The game had already spiraled out of control in the third quarter and it would’ve taken a complete collapse from the Raptors for the Wizards to complete the comeback. Washington hasn’t gotten any help from their bench this season, and the offense has plummeted as soon as Wall steps off the floor. I admire Garrett Temple’s defense, but the Wizards need a guard who can contribute on the offensive side of the floor when Wall gets the occasional breather.
“Each and every single game matters from here on out, especially if we want to do something special,” he told them, as the third-seeded Raptors prepared to begin the unofficial second half of their season against the sixth place Washington Wizards. “We can’t take [any] nights off,” he stressed. “These 30 games are going to be big and we’ve got to start tonight.” Message received, at least in the first of those final 30 games. “That’s what’s great about our team, everybody understands their role and that’s real big,” said DeRozan, who had a quiet night by his recent standards, scoring 14 points. “We have anybody that can [step up], it can be anybody. If one guy’s not playing well, somebody else always picks it up.” DeRozan’s uplifting words were not a surprise to Dwane Casey. The Raptors’ leading scorer had told his coach that he intended to make the speech on the flight to Washington the day prior.
Lowry is not a grizzled old veteran but he is a grizzled young man who knows what has to be done. “When you’re in this situation, we have to hunt,” he said. “We can’t be the hunted, we’ve got to go out there and make sure we eat and we prey on just getting wins. “You can’t let teams come in and dictate the game, we have to go out there, play our game and make sure we stay with our principles.” Hours later, he proved his point.
Did you ever notice the Knicks and Raptors have been embroiled in a Fatal Attraction–type relationship since the 1990s? Somehow they’re both Michael Douglas and Glenn Close at the same time. New York won the Oakley-Camby trade and “won” when Toronto “strategically” signed Fields away (an all-time Atrocious GM moment by Bryan Colangelo). But Toronto won the Bargnani-Novak-Camby Bad Contract Tornado fiasco by scoring New York’s unprotected 2016 first-round pick. And when Toronto acquired Antonio Davis from New York for future Grantland Network star Jalen Rose and a 2006 first-rounder, that inadvertently became a tragic Knicks moment when they took Renaldo Balkman over Rajon Rondo. Also, when last December’s “Lowry-Felton-Shumpert–2018 no. 1” deal fell through, that sent Toronto on a winning tear while ruining New York’s season. And if you want to dig deeper, the Knicks were mortally wounded by two failed Toronto execs (Isiah Thomas, and then Glen Grunwald). Keep an eye on this. Also, I’m not gonna be IGNORED, Dan.
Noah averages an impressive 11.9 points and 11.5 rebound double-double and ranks in the top three on the team in most categories and is amongst the league leaders in advanced statistical categories such as win shares and player efficiency rating. In addition to his defensive responsibilities, Noah also spends time quarterbacking Chicago’s offence out of the post and is one of the game’s premier passing big men. He’s a tough matchup for Valanciunas, though the sophomore has played well in his four career meetings with the Bulls (10.5 points, 8.0 rebounds).
“The rest of us got a chance to recover, let our body heal a little bit and get ready for the second-half stretch,” forward Carlos Boozer said. “Get ready for the playoffs. “For us to get home court would be great, and as high as we can get.” Having a healthy Boozer would surely help. The team leader with an average of 14.8 points, Boozer missed three games with a sore calf but returned Thursday to score 15 with 10 rebounds. Noah is averaging 17.7 points and 14.0 boards while shooting 57.1 percent over the past three games. He wasn’t nearly that effective on the offensive end against the Raptors (29-24) on Dec. 31, missing 8 of 10 from the floor while finishing with seven points and 16 rebounds in an 85-79 home loss.
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