It was a game itself that was worth framing – not because it was a thing of beauty but because it captured nicely the Raptors season so far: this is a team that leaves it all on the floor, and not metaphorically. They actually get on the floor for loose balls, get sent to the floor after attacking the rim and have to pick themselves up off the floor after drawing charges. It’s a tough group, epitomized by Lowry who played 54 minutes and finished with 18 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds and three steals and DeRozan, who played 57 minutes. “We rode him and DeMar so hard,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, voice almost spent. “ But every game is important. Every game, every possession, it’s hard to take them out.”
Ujiri has been with his new team less than one year, but has already made multiple moves that have propelled the Toronto Raptors to near the top of the Eastern Conference. Last summer, he shipped off former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks in exchange for future draft picks. Less than six months later, he dealt the face of the franchise–Rudy Gay–in exchange for three role players, at best. But, somehow, the plan worked. Maybe there is a method to his madness?
Ross, who is morphing into one of the team’s best defenders, left after only 16 minutes and while he wasn’t wearing a boot or carrying crutches after the game, he was walking the arena corridors very gingerly.“You don’t miss something until you don’t have it,” Casey said of Ross. “It gives us one more defender, a shot-maker, and that was a huge blow for us, especially defensively. He was doing a good job and also gave us another defender to switch around on (John) Wall.”Lowry was in discomfort, too, although he’ll never admit it.He rolled his ankle trying to win the game with a driving layup at the end of regulation time.“Just a little tweak, that’s all,” he said.True to form, he played for another 13 minutes before fouling out but was a shell of himself; he would not, however, accept any platitudes for the way the team played.“No, we want to win at the game at the end of the day,” he said of the inevitable “moral victory” query. “We go out there every single night to win, we don’t go out there and compete and say, ‘oh, we gave it our best shot.’ We go out there and try to win every single game.”
As a team, the Raptors, until very late in the fourth, were outworked in a game that seemed to mean more to the visiting Wizards, losers of three straight to Toronto this season, than it did to the home team. Overall, Washington grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, registered 80 points in the paint, bested the Raptors 21-6 in second-chance points and held a 10-point edge in fast break scoring. Still, the Raptors were right there with a chance to steal a victory they probably didn’t deserve at the end of regulation and as the clock expired to close the first OT period. “I like the way we battled,” said coach Dwane Casey, “even through the foul trouble and also with injuries.”
It was John Wall that forced a steal at the end of the first OT when the Wizards needed to get a stop. It was John Wall that delivered with a vicious inside-out dribble to speed for the game-tying layup. It was John Wall that prevented Kyle Lowry from giving the Raptors the win with this play. (Note the Iverson-esque step over him after the fact). In the third overtime, it was John Wall who rescued the Wizards. It was Wall that stepped into the passing lane and beat Vasquez’s bounce pass to Tyler Hansbrough for the steal, leading to an Ariza dunk. It was John Wall that stripped Vasquez on the very next play, leading to another fast break and a four-point lead. It was Wall who, with the Raptors needing a stop down two, yo-yoed with the dribble, forced a switch with Hansbrough and delivered the hesitation dribble — a new move in his arsenal — for the blow-by and finish. Hell, it was John Wall that defended DeRozan on the next play, preventing the obvious quick two.
To sum up the overtimes, the Raptors’ offense wasn’t pretty and there was a lot of standing around, probably due to fatigue. On top of this, attrition set in as Patrick Patterson and Amir Johnson fouled out and Kyle Lowry injured his ankle on a drive to end the first OT period. Lowry, being the warrior that he is, stayed in the game, but wasn’t nearly as effective after that. And with the Dinos’ best bigs out, Marcin Gortat proved to be too much in the paint, blocking Valanciunas a couple of times in key moments, and scoring at will. Once Lowry fouled out in the game’s waning moments, the Wiz went on a quick 4-0 run to take the lead for good, capitalizing on some forced turnovers when it counted most.
The Wizards won a triple-overtime marathon, 134-129, that doubled as the longest game in Raptors history — three hours and 32 minutes. By the end of the game, the Raptors were playing without four of their best defenders: Terrence Ross, who sprained his ankle in the second quarter, and Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson, who all fouled out. It is hard to recover from all of that. “We rode [Lowry] and DeMar [DeRozan] so hard, but every game is important. Every game, every possession — and it’s hard to take them out,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Even T-Ross, I never thought I’d say this, but we missed him. Our deck wasn’t full and I thought it hurt us.”
The latest sprinkling of second half magic from Toronto’s star backcourt flipped a game Washington was controlling back into a close contest. Though the other Raptors couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn in the third, Lowry and DeRozan combined for 22 of the team’s 24 points, powering an 11-0 run that followed a timeout by an angry Casey. Casey had plenty to be peeved about, though by the end of the evening, his team had once again earned his respect. Ross had 11 points, including three of his team’s seven three-pointers before exiting with a sprained ankle just prior to the end of the first half. Johnson rolled his own ankle a couple of times, DeRozan went down hard at one point and was slow to get up and Lowry hobbled through the first part of the overtime after crumpling to the floor after missing a potential game-winning layup to end the fourth. The Raptors bounced back off of the ropes in the fourth and actually had a chance to win, but Lowry’s driving layup wouldn’t fall.
It took a lot of heart for the Wizards to pull this one out. DeMar DeRozan and Greivis Vasquez combined for 60 points, including some of the most ridiculous made field goals I’ve seen this season. Vasquez knocked down a pull up three point shot in overtime that could’ve potentially been a dagger, but the Wizards continued to fight. Both teams deserve to get the ‘W’ tonight, but unfortunately only one was able to pull it out, and I’m glad it was the Wizards. Tonight’s game was certainly the most entertaining Wizards game of the season. They played their hearts out, extending their win streak to 5 and getting 2 games above .500.
Vasquez committed two costly turnovers in the final overtime, with Wall pilfering him and setting up a dunk by Ariza (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Martell Webster to give the Wizards a four-point lead. Vasquez was thrust into a larger role with the Raptors losing Terrence Ross to a sprained ankle at halftime.
On losing their key players, coach Dwane Casey said it was a case of ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’. “We lost three key players, and losing Terrence [Ross]. And you don’t miss something until you don’t have it,” Casey said. “It gives us one more defender, shot maker, and that was a huge blow for us.” “Even T-Ross, never thought I’d say it, but we missed him. Our deck wasn’t full and I thought it hurt us. We had to go with Demar longer, didn’t get a blow until probably about the 2 minute mark. So he went longer minutes in that stretch in the 3rd quarter because we didn’t have Terrence.” Casey said. Kyle Lowry attempted both the game winners at the end of the 4th—which Lowry turned his ankle, landing on Gortat, but remained in the game—and in overtime, both times coming up short on drives to the basket. Leading to a double overtime.
“My feet and back are hurting and I didn’t even play,” said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman. “It’s hard to put this game into words, there were so many changes of emotion, ups and downs. They seemed to have control and then we seemed to have control. We kept after it and we were lucky enough, we got the three stops in a row down the stretch and converted at the other end and gave us a boost. I don’t know the last time we saw 108 shots for us in a game – they had 100 – and 80 points in the paint and I would think that has to be a record for us somewhere. Our guys gutted it out. It was a gusty win for us. Both teams played good. It’s just one of those games you hate to see one of them lose.”
Send me your Raptors related links: [email protected]