Scottie the centre, Fred the closer help Raptors take down Wizards for third time

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Courtesy: The Globe and Mail

First of all, sorry for the delay in getting this up. Some tech issues at the crib.

Huge win by the Raptors to close out the five game road trip at 2-3. They win the season series 3-1 vs Washington, which could play massive dividends for playoff/play-in seeding in a very tight Eastern Conference. Some key points from my view.

Quick Hook, Quicker Response

I recapped the Mavs game and wrote quite a bit on Scottie Barnes defensive lapses vs Luka Doncic, most importantly at the end of the game that had most people flabbergasted, including myself. He didn’t start this one great on that end either, getting lost for a couple of easy Daniel Gafford baskets. Nick Nurse responded by giving Scottie a quick hook just 1:53 into the game for Chris Boucher.

Nurse has done that a few times this season when he doesn’t think his star rookie is locked in. Barnes checked back in midway through the first for OG Anunoby and boy was he different.

Scottie legitimately played like a centre for the whole game. The Raptors don’t have a traditional post player but they dumped it inside to Barnes quite often in the first half. Scottie especially took quick advantage of fellow rookie Corey Kispert (15th overall) numerous times there, making hook shots with either hand.

I’m 99 percent sure Shaq wasn’t watching that game but he is always griping on Inside the NBA about bigs not scoring the traditional way. Sealing your man, jump hook, barbecue chicken. He would be proud of Scottie at poor Kispert’s expense. Also, shout out to Davis Bertans. He’s in year two of a yikes looking five year, $80 million contract, having his worst season averaging only six points a game and shooting only 35 percent from the field. He got into a little minor shoving match with Scottie, who at that point didn’t need any more motivation after being taken out less than two minutes into the game.

Fred VanVleet had 12 assists and about half of them ended in baskets by Scottie, who started mixing in some rolls for more buckets. The following clip once again shows Kispert being taken advantage of, but the bigger Montrezl Harrell and Thomas Bryant were being scored on too with regularity.

The Raptors as a whole started this game poorly on defence, which is why they were down 10 after the first quarter. Nurse said after the game he switched to a zone to mix things up, and then there was a much better effort when they went back to man. Scottie was a big part of that too, getting a deflection that led to a Pascal Siakam layup and then helping Fred trap Bradley Beal for a backcourt violation. The Wizards had a number of these in the first half. By the time halftime rolled around, the Raptors were in front.

Scottie had 17 first half points, putting his career-high of 26 well in reach. He found himself against the shot clock in the third quarter and took advantage of another mismatch in Spencer Dinwiddie. This was his farthest made basket of the game, which illustrates how much he was dominating inside. Pretty set up from the elbow area, somewhere he has been comfortable shooting from since day one.

Barnes got the career-high wrapped up later in the third, finishing with 27 points (he didn’t score in the fourth). Here’s the rook scoring over the aforementioned 6-10 Bryant with ease plus the foul. The primal scream as well, setting a new milestone with that and-one.

“When he stretches out, he’s big out there and I think he can use that length to his advantage. He got it in places or took it to places where he could do that. It was a really aggressive, good ball game for him,” Nurse said postgame.

“Anytime he has it going like that, you just try to get him the ball in his spots. He was getting good seals against guys he had a good matchup against and he was jump hooking them to death tonight. He had some friendly rolls, some and-ones, he was just a force in the paint tonight,” VanVleet added.

Supporting Roles

Pascal Siakam also had a solid game on both ends attacking on drives, getting deflections and helping to change a couple of shots at the rim. He made two out of timeout midrange jumpers that were huge at a time when the Wizards were making a fourth quarter charge. Here’s one of them below. Spicy finished with 21 points, seven boards and four assists.

Despite Siakam’s calming efforts, the Raptors went four and a half minutes without a field goal and Washington tied the game. The Wizards came in 18-6 in clutch games (five point game with under five minutes left) this season, second to only the Phoenix Suns who the Raptors saw in a similar situation last week.

Toronto took the L in that one, but Friday night was different thanks to Freddy All-Star.

The Wizards were in zone on that play. Great screen by Pascal, freeing Fred for a good pullup three look, something he has really improved at this season. Perfect out of timeout play by Nurse.

Scottie switched onto Dinwiddie after a Harrell screen and defended the three well on the other end to give Toronto the ball back. Dinwiddie has been a below average three point shooter this season, but actually made five in this game so that was huge.

Back on the other end, Barnes had a chance to cook Dinwiddie again for the dagger, but that’s where OG Anunoby came in with one of his nine rebounds (two offensive) to seal the game. Massive.

Sidenotes

Gary Trent Jr. returned after missing six games with an ankle injury. He knocked down three treys in the first half, providing some secondary scoring that the Raptors dearly missed in his absence. He was also a pest on those halfcourt traps that led to a few Wizards turnovers.

“My ankle was just sore,” Trent explained. “It was a couple days before that. Been playing through it for a while now. There was nothing major to it, I’m back now so that’s most important.”

Big moment for Japan: Yuta Watanabe and Rui Hachimura shared the court in the first quarter, making it only the second time two Japanese players were in an NBA game at the same time. Yuta didn’t score or attempt a shot in six minutes, meanwhile Rui had 11 points and eight boards off the bench.

The other thing I keyed in after the Mavs game was the seven man rotation being used for a second straight game. Nurse used nine guys in this one and Fred played a minute under 40, snapping a five game streak. Fred has noticed the heat Nurse has taken for this over the last week or so, and said afterwards that he is a grown man that can isn’t being put in an adverse situation against his will. In other words, we (including myself) may need to chill on that for now.

What’s Next?

The Raptors go back to the empty seats at Scotia for two games against the Blazers and Hornets. Norman Powell hasn’t played in two weeks so don’t expect a Toronto comeback.

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