Last week’s ranking: 2
Overall record: 33-12
Last week: 3-0 (Win vs. Hawks, Win vs. Nets, Win at Wizards)
This week: at Celtics, vs. Suns, vs. Grizzlies
The Raptors return to the No. 1 spot in our Power Rankings following a perfect homestand that included wins over the Pacers, Hawks and Nets.
Their game against the Hawks earlier in the week came down to the wire, but they made easy work of Nets before going on the road to beat the Wizards on Sunday.
With those wins and Milwaukee’s loss to those same Wizards last week, the Raptors now have the best record in the NBA again. It couldn’t come at a better time, as Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka played together for the first time since Dec. 9 in their matchup with the Nets.
That lineup has been dominant on both ends of the court this season, with them scoring at a rate of 114.0 points per 100 possessions while holding opponents to only 104.0 .
With the win, the Raptors have now won four consecutive games since their uninspiring performance in San Antonio. This is the fourth win streak of four or more games this season for Toronto, who continues strengthen its hold of the East’s No. 1 seed.
Over the past four games, the team is averaging 121.8 points and 28.0 assists while shooting 37.5 percent from 3-point range and its bench is averaging 42.8 points while shooting 49.6 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from deep. The streak has seen the Raptors post an Offensive Rating of 110.4 and a Defensive Rating of 102.7 for an impressive Net Rating of 7.7
As Wednesday’s big showdown in Boston against the Celtics looms, picking up the win on Sunday is huge for the Raptors as they get set to enter into a tough road environment with the momentum of a win streak on their side. Although Boston has struggled lately, Toronto has not won at TD Garden since Dec. 2016.
Once again, the Wizards had a heck of a time with Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors forward made mincemeat of Washington’s defense, proving too strong, too quick and too deadly from long range to be contained.
Leonard made his first four shots and had 14 by halftime. He finished with 41 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. His points came casually, he scored inside and out and not even Ariza could do much to limit him.
Leonard is having one of those years where he will be just about unstoppable in some games. The Wizards haven’t been able to find an answer for him yet through two meetings this season. He used to be the Western Conference’s problem, but now that he’s in the East the Wizards will see him more often.
Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report recently created several trade ideas that could prevent the Warriors from winning their third consecutive NBA championship title this season. For the Raptors, Hughes suggested that they could trade for Courtney Lee of the New York Knicks.
Hughes believes that the Raptors have the type of defense that could limit the Warriors’ production on the offensive end of the floor. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green could guard the Warriors’ best scoring options, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. What the Raptors need to defeat them is to improve their ability to convert those defensive stops into points where a reliable three-point shooter like Courtney Lee could help.
“The blueprint for shutting down Golden State’s elite offense is uncomplicated when you’ve got stoppers like Toronto does. What the Raps may not be able to do in a potential Finals matchup, though, is shoot well enough to make all that ridiculous defensive personnel matter. The Raps are 23rd in three-point accuracy, and Green is their only high-volume shooter north of 37 percent on the year. To beat Golden State, you have to have multiple threats stretching the defense and punishing the occasional lapses of off-ball focus we’ve seen crop up with the Warriors in this, their worst defensive season of the Steve Kerr era.”
he game certainly took its toll in the health department, although every member of the Raptors who had to leave the contest with a knock eventually made their way back in.
“I’m not sure it was super physical game, but it was a collision game,” Nurse said. “Both teams playing really hard, lots of open-floor play and lots of spacing and lots of transition, so there were a lot of collisions out there. Luckily for us this is just the third time all year we get two days before we play again and we’re going to need them.”
First Kawhi Leonard had to leave midway through the third quarter with some tightness behind his knee that needed stretching out.
Then with Leonard still out, Norm Powell took a Jeff Green elbow to the head and stayed down hoping the officials would take a second look at it. They didn’t and no foul was called leaving Powell with his bell wrung and not much more.
Danny Green was on the receiving of a Tomas Satoransky tackle late in the second overtime. With Green down, Satoransky dove at him to foul him and stop the clock. Green got up and made one of two free throws, giving the Wizards one more crack at it with 2.7 seconds left.
“I know when I’m standing over there, I like watching him play, I don’t want to miss it,” Nurse said last week. “So our guys, they weren’t used to watching this guy kind of dissect people, and they have been watching. Again, I don’t think he’s been in this situation as much, where he’s got the ball and he’s trying to figure out where the pieces are moving, and seeing so many bodies come at him, and having to find it.
“He kind of played, he was rusty, then he started scoring. And then teams all of a sudden started sending multiple people at him and he didn’t do a great job of getting it out of there. And then all of a sudden he started figuring that out. You can see it kind of evolving.”
On Sunday, in a 41-point gem of a game in a 140-138 double overtime victory over the Washington Wizards, Leonard did a bit of everything:
He patiently waited out a post-up double team in the first quarter, spotted an open Serge Ibaka and calmly passed off for a three-pointer.
With the ball at the elbow and defenders about to swarm him, Leonard waited a split second before rifling a pass to a backdoor-cutting Pascal Siakam for a baseline dunk.
Leonard went up in traffic between a couple of Wizards in the third quarter, simply outmuscled two defenders and ripped away an offensive rebound that he kicked out to start a play that led to another three-pointer.
Beal joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to have two 40-15-10 games in the same season.
Beal also had a big game on the hustle sheet. He grabbed a game-high six loose balls and had a game-high six deflections.
Beal played 54 minutes and 36 seconds, tying Devin Booker for the most time played in a game this season, and he pulled that off even though this game only went to double-overtime, unlike Booker’s triple-overtime effort against the Wizards earlier this season.
The last time a player logged at least 54 minutes in a game that did not go to triple-overtime was in December 2013, when Carmelo Anthony played 55:27 in a win over the Bucks.
Beal has reached the 50-minute twice this season, and was 22 seconds away from doing it a third time in the Wizards’ overtime win over the Rockets. No other player has played over 50 minutes more than one time this season.
The Wizards were a +4 when Beal on the floor. The Wizards were a -6 in the three minutes and 24 seconds Beal was not on the court against Toronto.
There have only been eight games this season where a player has reached 40 points without making at least four free throws. Beal now has two of them this season.
In a game that went two overtimes, Beal was one of only two Wizards to reach double-digits in rebounding.
Beal became the first player to make 6 threes and have 15 assists in a loss since Steph Curry did it in January 2014 against the Timberwolves.
Beal isn’t the first player to have a monster game in a loss to Toronto. Teams are 1-3 when a player scores over 40 against the Raptors this season.
Kawhi to off-camera teammate: "You stupid. This ain't Burberry. … This New Balance." 😂 pic.twitter.com/L46VZaSpsx
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 14, 2019
But Beal wasn’t trying to dodge the media or escape a bad loss — Washington’s players and Coach Scott Brooks alike expressed little regret after the game.
“It was a great game. Anytime you have two teams lay everything they have on the floor, you can walk away knowing that you did your best, and tonight was one of those games,” Brooks said. “. . . Disappointed that we didn’t get the win but still proud of our guys the way they battled. If we keep playing like this, we’re going to be in a lot of good games and in a good position to win these games in the end.”
It was Beal’s fourth-quarter breakthrough that finally lifted Washington out of the Raptors’ grasp. The Wizards (18-26) had missed their first five field goals, fell into a 23-point hole in the second quarter and trailed for nearly 48 minutes before Beal capped a 21-point performance in the final period of regulation with a 26-foot three-pointer to tie things at 124 with 21.5 seconds left and force overtime.
“Made big shot after big shot after big shot, and we needed every bit. . . . He competes,” Brooks said of Beal. “He puts us in the position to win, and that’s what your all-stars are supposed to do.
Of course, this game was in Washington, so there were the to-be-expected flourishes of temporarily giving a shit the Wizards tend to bust out whenever their deficit extends past 15 points. No one loves draining a triple to bring his team to within three possessions of tying more than Bradley Beal.
Beal, man. His inability to win anything meaningful and the theatrics with which he celebrates his empty calorie buckets often do a good job of concealing that he’s actually, uhm, really good at basketball. And it’s impossible not to acknowledge his exploits on Sunday afternoon. With the Raptors on the brink of welcoming Patrick McCaw’s debut and other garbage time fun with a 14-point lead after 36 minutes, Beal, free of the straight-jacket that so obviously is the injured John Wall, dropped 21 points in the fourth quarter — a frame in which Washington hit its first 12 shots from the field — and morphed afternoon nap fuel into a nail-biter on his own. (Otto Porter helped, too. It’s amazing how much everyone loves not playing with Wall.)
Beal’s heroics set the stage for — and this can not be overstated — one of the stupidest finishes in the history of the Toronto Raptors. It was so stupid, in fact, that it makes the thing Michael Ruffin once did in that very arena seem less stupid.
Folks, the thing Michael Ruffin did was impossibly stupid.
Reports of in-fighting and a losing record have hung over this Wizards season like a storm cloud descending on the John Wall-Beal era.
Just before the calendar turned, Washington had gone 1-7 in its last eight games with Wall before it was announced that the former first-overall pick would be out for the rest of the season. For an already rocky Wizards team, the injury seemed like the perfect opportunity to put this season in the rearview and tank for the 2019 draft, with a generational talent in Zion Williamson as its top prize.
Instead the Wizards have gone 5-3 since — a case of addition by subtraction — including two straight wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks before Toronto came to town on Sunday afternoon.
Key to the team’s recent success has been Beal, who has been stellar since Wall’s injury, averaging nearly 29 points and 2.5 steals per game in that span as he looks to take control of DeMar DeRozan’s vacated title for best shooting guard in the East.
Whenever Toronto faced off against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers over the past few seasons, no Raptors fan ever felt overly confident about the team’s chances.
This could leave one to believe that with the amount of success James has had over the club in his career, it would’ve been easy for the Cavs to chalk up the Raps as an easy outing.
But despite all of that success, Cleveland and “The King” never took the Raptors lightly, according to Toronto assistant coach and former Cavs staffer Phil Handy.