The Toronto Raptors this season have had an affinity for finding ways to lose and making games where they should be in the driver’s seat turn into horror very quickly, last night was no different. With about 7 minutes remaining in the final quarter Toronto found themselves with an 11 point lead and really seemed in control but suddenly, Washington bombarded them offensively. It began with a Corey Kispert three that was generated by Bradley Beal blowing by Scottie Barnes and forcing Will Barton to slide down to help. Toronto attempts to strike back with a Siakam baseline mid range but it bounces off the rim, they come down again after a Beal miss and Scottie tosses up an ill-advised layup over Porzingis which doesn’t go, after this miss Washington comes down the court quickly and Kyle Kuzma slashes his way to the rim to extend the Wizards run to 5-0, Toronto still has breathing room but it’s closing faster than a snapping turtles mouth with a hand near it.
Toronto goes to an action that has proved fruitful for them in the short time they have been able to use it, a Fred VanVleet and Jakob Poetl pick and roll, Jakob fails to convert the layup after the roll, once again Washington flies down the court, Bradley Beal gets a high ball screen from Delon Wright, subtly fakes a pass elsewhere to get Pascal Siakam a little out of position for a Kyle Kuzma three and he sinks it, 8-0 run now. In what feels like divine intervention a Fred mid range that wasn’t going to go gets tapped out by Kyle Kuzma and Toronto gets blessed with two points to stop some of the bleeding. The next play however is gut wrenching. Toronto plays sound defense on this play, Bradley Beal is hunting Fred switches now but Toronto does a great job stunting on the drive, switching on an attacking Kuzma, and applying heavy on ball pressure to Kispert which leads to a desperation triple from Kuzma that clanks off the side of the rim right into Porzingis’ hands and he gets fouled on a layup attempt by Pascal and it goes in, the run is now 10-2 and this feels reminiscent of that feeling fans have felt all season long. Toronto just has abysmal stretches where seemingly nothing goes right. Gary comes down and hits another tough middy, but once again Washington comes down to court and seemingly with ease Beal rushes past Fred for a layup.
Toronto extends their lead to 5 after some wonderful Fred playmaking but then it’s cut short with a wide open dunk to Porzingis. Now is the time you look to your star to produce for you, Pascal Siakam goes into the lane looking for his shot but Washington sends a hard double off of Fred’s man and forces a turnover, Fred plays some of his best defense of the night and holds up Bradley Beal and forces him into a tough contested jumper, After a GTJ miss, Toronto once again had a great possession on defense, providing great resistance against Delon Wright’s layup attempt. Toronto goes into their patented inverted pick and roll with Fred and Pascal and it works wonderfully, Kuzma and Kispert commit to Pascal which leaves Fred wide open, but he can’t get it to go. Washington comes down the court and Delon Wright sinks a triple after Toronto’s defense gets scrambled, it is now a tied game but there is plenty of time left to get a game winning shot off. Toronto dumps it to Siakam in the mid range area for an isolated possession but Washington inexplicably sends a hard double one pass away to shut down Pascals look but gives Fred another wide open look and once again he cannot get it to go. OG Anunoby once again plays stout defense on Bradley Beal and forces the miss and overtime.
To open up the scoring for Toronto, Gary Trent Jr hits yet another mid range out of the pick and roll, he’s been great thus far, but Washington comes down the floor and gets a tough layup from Wright. Things go quiet for what feels like an eternity, possession after possession Bradley Beal is looking to get Fred switched onto him but Fred does an amazing job taking bumps and using his hands to bother the dribble of Beal in order to essentially shut him down. This switch hunting takes so much time off the shot clock so with Fred holding his ground it often leads to a poor shot for Washington. VanVleet bursts down the floor and pitches ball to Siakam in the corner, Siakam drives they send two at him but this time Fred sinks the corner triple, Toronto leads by three. With one minute remaining Kyle Kuzma cuts the lead to one with two free throws. Toronto goes into a middle pick and roll with Gary as the ball handler and Scottie as the roller, Scottie gets the ball on the short roll, directs his eyes towards the rim to manipulate Porzingis who was in help position and lasers a pass to a wide open Fred who once again sinks the corner triple to extend the lead to four. OG then has one of the best defensive plays in the game, he hedges the ball screen which allows Wright to slip behind him and yet he still covers the ground to block Wrights layup attempt, special stuff. A Siakam-and-one dunk then seals the game and Toronto gets to leave Washington with their heads up.
With the way the season has gone so far you really appreciate wins like this, multiple players bouncing back from last game, showing real continuity in overtime, and just pulling out a gutsy win, these are the wins that will matter when it comes time to see who’s in the playoffs or not.
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