The Raptors hosted the Wizards on a night that they broke out their new ‘City’ jerseys. The ones emblazoned with gold, that look pretty good to me. Referencing the Wizards games of the past, many thought this would be a gritty and difficult game. Thankfully, the Raptors played really well -save for a couple laborious stretches – and had their most prolific night of 3-point shooting of this early season. The Wizards were fresh off their best win of the season, but that didn’t matter. The Raptors, rejuvenated by the return of Kawhi Leonard, and OG Anunoby steamrolled the Wizards.
Still sitting atop the league, the Raptors news cycle has been far more focused on aesthetics than success. This game delivered both, and with more players healthy this should be considered a big step toward their ceiling.
Kyle Lowry started strong for the second game in a row, which is a great sign. He was super active setting up his own offense. Victor Raso talked about it here, but the short version is that Lowry requires momentum and speed to take proper advantage of ‘pnr’ sets. Rather than have Lowry walk into the ‘pnr’ dry, there was far more DHO’s run for him that he could sprint towards. The outcome of that was a lot more room for Lowry to operate, which translates to lots of buckets for Raptors big men.
(This time they use a double screen to get Lowry a bit more room. Even with the rub from Porter, Valanciunas beats Bryant to the rim and Lowry delivers a picture-esque medium lob. Lack of effort from Beal here. Beal was lazy getting after Lowry and played the pass to Siakam. He should have been on Lowry’s heels so that Bryant hedging on Lowry allowed him to catch up, and Porter’s rub on Valanciunas would’ve allowed Bryant to shift over to him once Beal was back on Lowry.)
Kawhi Leonard came out strong and looking for his own offense. He hit a lot of jumpers early, but still not getting many ‘pnr’ possessions. His ability to stare a guy down and get a bucket over top of him is striking. Even better than the offense was his defense. He was a terror on-ball against the Wizards as the Raptors shut down a lot of their actions in the first.
The ‘Bench Mob’ stepped into the fray with vigor tonight. OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet both canning triples in the opening frame. Serge Ibaka also contributing while shorting the ‘pnr’ in his second game in a row off the pine. As a result of all this fantastic play, the Raptors bust up the Wizards and end the first quarter up 38-26.
VanVleet opens up the second quarter with a triple, in what is his best game of the year so far. Austin Rivers takes an ambien and falls asleep on the baseline, Delon Wright sees his reflection in Rivers drool and back-cuts for a layup. The Raptors get a bit lazy on defense and foul 3 possessions in a row. The ‘Bench Mob’ is still a bit of an up and down experience, it would seem. The Wizards creep within 7 before the Raptors bring a couple starters back in.
Ibaka gets a dunk after a nifty pass from Wright, and Pascal Siakam hits a three from the corner with no hesitation. Otto Porter collects an offensive board and puts it back in. Lowry & Leonard crash into each-other. In the fall-out of this crash, Wall finds himself wide-open behind the line. Wall lines it up, and proceeds to bash the ball off the glass. Leonard collects the rebound and runs in a straight line to the rim for a dunk.
CJ Miles gets to the rim for his first bucket of the night, and Siakam gets an incredible block on a Porter 3-point attempt. Siakam glides from the left wing to the right side of the bucket and hits a push-shot off the window. He’s so proficient around the basket, it really seems like he can’t miss sometimes.
Lowry and Porter trade triples in the midst of some technical’s being given out. In the aftermath, the Wizards are staring down 7-point deficit, 64-57. Lowry exits the game, headed toward the locker room. Before he gets there, he leans over to give his son a kiss. My heart. A Satoransky triple, and a beautiful step-over dunk from Leonard closes the half out at 70-62, Raptors.
Sloppy play to open up, lots of turnovers. A couple Kelly Oubre buckets book-end a Bradly Beal triple and the lead is down to 1. A Leonard shot is long and Valanciunas grabs an uber-impressive rebound before handing off to Lowry for a triple. Beal snakes a ‘pnr’ before hitting from mid-range, knotting things up at 73.
In what is my personal fan-fiction, Siakam slices through the lane before passing to a wide-open Leonard in the corner. Leonard takes the ball in stride and rises up for a triple with no hesitation, big bucket. The Raptors blow up a horns set from the Wizards and spring Lowry loose for a breakaway layup. Leonard gets a switch onto Markieff Morris and freezes him with a hesi before hitting from mid-range. It’s 80-73 Raptors, seemingly getting this thing back under control.
Wall gets a transition layup, but Danny Green responds in kind with a corner three. The Raptors have been getting most of their threes out of the ‘pnr’ and passing to the corner. Green’s triple came off some sweet side-top-side action. The Wizards run a pin-down for Oubre, who hits an and-1 push shot. Anunoby hits from downtown, bringing him to a perfect 3-3 from deep in this one. The next play he sneaks along the baseline before Leonard finds him, Anunoby busts out a spin move before a layup.
*Look at Wall’s defense here. It’s incredible stuff, he displays zero awareness.
Leonard gets a mismatch in the post, Wall tries to hold his ground but Leonard turns him over his right shoulder for a baby hook. Jeff Green gets a put-back on the other end, but the Wizards still trail 93-85. Anunoby makes another basket cut, this time it’s Lowry feeding him down there, bucket. A massive block from Ibaka on Beal closes out the quarter at 101-87.
Picking up where he left off, Ibaka gets another huge block. Standing up Markieff Morris at the rim. Terrific stuff from Ibaka here, he played the middle perfectly against Rivers, forcing the pass. He’s so good though, that he rotated quick enough, not only to contest, but to get a highlight block. Ibaka has been so good this year, and could probably throw his hat in the ring for a fringe All-Star.
A truly shocking level of shot-making from Wright occurs, as he side-steps into a three-point shot. Looking very DeRozan-esque there. Miles follows that up with a triple of his own, and thank goodness he got one to drop because he was trying very hard. Ibaka hits a push shot on the short-roll to go up 111-97, and that’s game, man.
The rest of the game was pretty uneventful except that Greg Monroe (Moose!!!) attempted a three-pointer that was not close to going in. This game ends mercifully at 125-107, the Raptors cover the spread. The Raptors grab their 16th win of the year over the team that forced LeBron James to leave the Eastern Conference in fear.
This was an especially good game from VanVleet and Anunoby. Their performances tonight put the Raptors bench in a place where they can feel like a top-5 (bench) unit. Lowry & Leonard were both in great form, especially the former. Siakam had his first quiet game in what, a month? He still chipped in 8 boards and 3 assists, this team can look so deep at times. Even with the unnecessary lead changes, this one felt pretty easy for the Raptors. 16-4 and looking down at the rest of the league feels pretty good. The Raptors are in ‘The Good Place’.
Have a blessed day.