Raptors 103, Wizards 93 – Box

Any fears that the All-Star break might disrupt the Raptors’ momentum were rendered unfounded on Tuesday night as the Raptors notched an impressive win against the team they would face in the playoffs, if they started today. Winning road games is sweet in itself, and when you do it emphatically it’s like cherry on the pie. It brings me great joy to see the camera pan over the exiting fans, the disappointed faces, and the tired home announcers. Even the PA guy is mechanically calling out the plays, all the while dreading his drive back home through the more “diverse” parts of DC.

The Wizards have been pegged by many to overtake the Raptors in the second-half of the season, and on the evidence of last night it’s going to be a tough ask. Other than the token run made by home teams when they’re down big in the fourth, the Raptors exerted their authority and controlled the game with ease.

John Wall’s offense was singular in keeping the Wizards within a shout in the first half, and Dwane Casey was more than willing to let Wall become scorer rather than creator. Wall had 18 points on 9-12 shooting in the first half as he tried to carry the load for the misfiring Bradley Beal (2-10 FG). This contrasted sharply with a Raptors offense that was clicking right from the start and ended up shooting 57% for the game, with six players in double figures. Jonas Valanciunas was being used to initiate the offense, often being re-posted, and his finishing against the sizable Washington frontline was superb.

DeRozan's Team Talk

“Just (told) everybody to be focused,” DeRozan said. “Each and every single game matters from here on out especially if we want to do something special. We can’t take any nights off. These thirty games are going to be big and we have to start tonight.”

– DeMar DeRozan

Patrick Patterson retained his starting role despite Amir Johnson being available, and as is the norm, he jumpstarted the offense without ever initiating it. The Raptors moved the ball inside-out very well, with Valanciunas keen to make quick decisions instead of inviting the defense to swarm in. As Amir Johnson paced himself he found himself a pick ‘n roll partner in Lowry: of Johnson’s six field goals, five were assisted by Kyle Lowry, and three of them were pick ‘n rolls.

Dwane Casey tested Terrence Ross on John Wall to no avail, the former proving to be too quick around the screens for any Raptor. As Bradley Beal missed shots you would generally expect him to make, the defensive presence of John Salmons, DeMar DeRozan, and Terrence Ross can’t be discounted as the trio did well to close-out on Beal, taking precious inches of space away.  Kyle Lowry was playing the role of distributor for much of the first half and DeMar DeRozan remained passive by exclusively taking five jumpers.  The Raptors were at half-throttle and managed to take a six-point lead at halftime with both teams shooting well over 50%.

More from this game:

Dwane Casey conceded size in the frontcourt in favor of the versatility of Patterson.  You might recall that Casey came under a lot of criticism from hacks like myself for always playing the game the other coach wanted instead of taking initiative and exploiting mismatches.  Last night was the complete opposite of that.  Conventional wisdom might suggest that the Raptors bulk-up in the front to matchup against Gortat and Nene, yet Casey kept Patterson in favor of the bigger, more physical, Johnson.  The result was Patterson running circles around them in the first and Johnson finding a soft spot against Trevor Booker.

Amir Impact

“He and Amir both came in and brought energy and that’s what we needed, the physicality,” Casey said of Hansbrough. “I keep talking about that … people don’t want to fight against that every night. His physical screens, just putting bodies on people in the paint, I thought that was huge.”

Whenever we’ll face the Wizards in the foreseeable future, it’s going to be about John Wall.  The Raptors did well to kill the tempo of the game and prevented the Wizards from turning this into a track meet, which is what Wall is unstoppable at.  When a team shoots 57%, as the Raptors did, the chances of the other team running at you are greatly reduced since it’s much tougher to break from a made field goal than from a long rebound.   This game only featured eight fastbreak points, four for each team.  Having killed the tempo, the Raptors ball-movement and individual drive-play proved to be too much for the Wizards who lost the points-in-the-paint battle 48-60, which is surprising given their advantage on paper.  Lowry, DeRozan, Valanciunas and Johnson were able to finish near the rim throughout the game, causing frustration to the Wizards who would generally expect to hold an advantage there.

Three things could’ve happened in the third quarter which started with the Raptors holding the aforementioned six-point lead: 1) The Wizards might’ve come back after Beal finally hit some shots, 2) The game remained tight with a nervous fourth quarter ahead of us, and 3) The Raptors would find another gear.

The Raptors found another gear.  It came courtesy of Kyle Lowry who had 14 points – all of which can be seen here.  Wall inevitably cooled down going 0-3 in the quarter and at the end of it the Raptors had a 14-point lead.

With Lowry resting, Greivis Vasquez got the nod and he hit two huge threes to help the Raptors to a 20-point advantage with 7:30 left.   The night looked to be ending on a quiet note only for the Wizards to make a run fuelled by unforced errors on the part of the Raptors.  The lead was never quite threatened and Nene helpfully missed three FTs late on to make sure that Washington wouldn’t get a sniff.

The Raptors won while giving up 11 more rebounds which led to 13 more second-chance points for the Wizards.  As damning as a statistic like that is, consider it by design on this night where Patterson provided the Wizards with a look they don’t face often.  DeMar DeRozan’s 4-6 FG performance in the third quarter is overshadowed by Lowry’s, and it should be noted that although he did settle (and make) his outsider jumpers, he drove to the rim and finished effective in equal measure.

It’s a good star to the “second half” of the season with a tough game against the Bulls coming right up, for which you can purchase below-cost tickets.

  • Ds

    Of the remaining 29 games, the Raps play 21 against sub .500 teams, and of the 8 games against over .500 teams, 7 are at home.

    Can you say 50-win season? Best Raptors team ever?

    • Jonasbrutha

      Love the optimism and I share the same enthusiasm, but in the wise words of New Edition, you got to cool it now. Let’s do as the Raptors are doing and take it one game at a time. Besides, the trade deadline is still looming…

      • Yogi

        Do it Wreck-It Ralph and take it “One Game at a Time” 😀

    • jakdripr

      Yea after that 3 game losing streak to boston, la and charlotte we’d best not take any opponent for granted. One game at a time.

      • Abused Raptors Fan

        That’s exactly what I’m worried about. For most other playoff teams, our remaining schedule would be ideal. But for the Raptors, its basically 2 months of trap games, as they’ve shown a tendency towards playing down to their competition before. Also, its not necessary the best schedule to play going in to the playoffs, as they won’t be challenged on a regular basis, rather than going into the playoffs playing at a consistently high level. Teams always want to peak at the right time after all.

    • afrocarter

      That sounds pretty awesome and quite feasible on paper. It’s tough for any NBA team to win 21 out of 29 games, though. If the Raps manage to pull it off, I might literally dance in the streets.

  • Everyone’s a critic

    Your writing is too gimmicky. Which would be fine if you weren’t using those gimmicks incorrectly. Read some f*cking Hemmingway and learn to write like a man.

    • What the

      piss off ! fool

    • DDayLewis

      A man doesn’t censor his fucks

      • Abused Raptors Fan

        He does if he has PPD – Penial Pixelation Disorder. LOL

    • DC

      Everyone’s a critic, and some critics are assholes. Check your mirror.

  • sitnonDfence

    Im suprised that there has been so little mention about the travesty of the officiating after wittman got the boot.
    T’was brutal as I have ever seen.

  • MoPeteRules

    “…bigger and more physical Johnson”. Amir – 6’9″, 210lbs, Patrick – 6’9″, 235lbs. Definitely craftier than 2-Pat, but not bigger and more physical. Let’s get to 50 wins!

    • WJF

      That is Amir’s rookie measurments, coming from high school. Pretty sure they are way different now

      • MoPeteRules

        With that logic so are Patterson’s, and he still outweighs Amir by a fair size. I was just pointing out that Amir isn’t a bigger and more imposing presence than 2-Pat is all

        • JimmyDuckets

          Exactly what I was thinking when I read that. Amir is definitely more athletic and wiry, but 2Pat is clearly beefier.

        • WJF

          Sure, except Amir came in as a 19 year old and Patterson as a 22 year old. I am not saying Amir is bigger than Patterson, but he is longer and has as much mass and plays more physical.

  • Roarque

    Very well written – reminded me of Hemingway.

    • Faulkner

      Too many commas and not enough fishing references to be considered Hemingway-esque

      • Abused Raptors Fan

        Well that, and this is postgame analysis on a sports blog. Other than that though, you shall hence forth be known as Hemmingway Lite

      • Lucas

        That this retort came from Faulkner is pure gold. Well played, sir (or madam). Well played.

        And overall, this is indeed a well written, and enjoyable piece, as per usual from Zarar. Note, however, that “star” at the end should read “start.”

      • Roarque

        Ha! Perhaps Morley Callaghan-esque?
        Travelling through America this week – bereft of Raptor’s telecasts in these hinterlands. Pity.

  • Skip2MyLou

    When John Wall tried to dunk over Amir Johnson late in the 4th…..
    Who do you think you are, Terrence Ross??

    • Abused Raptors Fan

      Haha. Laughed soo hard there. Wall thinks he’s a thug… have you seen his NBA profile pic? It looks like it was taken just as he was trying to dislodge something stuck in his teeth or something.

      • Mike P

        lol, don’t be hating on the boy Wall, he will nae nae in this bitch if he has to.

  • Mexiballer

    That was Grieves’s best game by far. He played under control with only one turnover and good shot selection. Maybe he spent the All start break doing some homework.

  • asifyouknow

    I watch lots of basketball so I can say it without hesitation, there just can’t be a more fun group of players than Toronto. Their passing is so crisp sometimes I think I’m watching the Harlem Globetrotters. So much fun.

    Kyle Lowry played like the superstar he is, how can Toronto not ink this guy, what else do they want?

    V will get Toronto a championship someday. I recently found out he was 21 years old , are you kidding me! In a few years this guy will be bigger and stronger.

    Greivis Vasquez played with swagger for the first time this season, you would of had to watch the guy for years to understand what I’m talking about, look for a different Vaz the second half…Good to see it ..I hope Casey understands a hot doging Vaz will be beneficial to him and his team.

    DEFINITION OF SWAGGER, just in case: Walk or behave in a very confident and typically arrogant or aggressive way.

    He had that walk yesterday vs Washington.

    Shame is I think he may be gone by tomorrows deadline……

    • Abused Raptors Fan

      Except that it seems like he’s another Augustine and can’t play well without starting/playing heavy minutes. He had extra motivation last night, as he played his high school andcollege ball in the area. Let’s just hold off on the parade until he plays like this for more than one game at a time.

      • asifyouknow

        Would not expect less from you than a negative comment…fair enough…

  • truuth

    what token run you idiot, we almost completely collapsed in the fourth.