In some ways, this was more déjà vu than the last game in which Anthony Parker did his best Mo Pete impersonation.
Seeing Bosh and Jose laughing and joking around on the bench in the fourth quarter was reminiscent of games against New Jersey, Milwaukee and Chicago this season and once again is proof that when Toronto’s offence is on, it’s really on.
The Toronto Raptors blew the Washington Wizards out of the water in a 122 to 83 win and this one wasn’t even close by the time the third quarter was half over. In fact the 39-point win tied the franchise record for largest margin of victory!
Toronto shot almost 57 per cent from the field and deflated the Wizards by hitting nine of their first 11 3-point shots. Washington gave too many open looks, but in sharp contrast to the previous night, this time the Raptors knocked them down.
It really was the subtle differences that got this win (making shots, improved defensive tactics, more aggression, better rebounding etc) and resulted in a huge performance from the team as a whole. All 12 players got to play, everyone scored, and in general, wins don’t come much easier than this.
Washington looked like it had used up all of its energy the night before, came out flat, and Toronto brought the intensity it needed from the tip to seize the victory.
A Numbers Game – 20.
This was one of the most pleasant stats I’ve seen in a while. After playing 50 minutes the previous night, Toronto’s outstanding offensive execution enabled Chris Bosh to rest for the majority of this one. CB4 has been playing out of this world of late and it was nice to reward him with a break.
In fact it was nice to reward a number of players with some rest, especially as it's looking more and more like a number of the Raptors are going to be busy during the All-Star break.
38 to 36.
This time Toronto won the battle of the boards, if only by two. However it was interesting to note that as the Raptors’ shots started going down, the team stepped it up in this area and on defence (they held the Wizards to under 37 per cent shooting), something we’ll discuss further in a moment.
The Turning Point –
There was a moment in the second quarter, six minutes left to be exact, that really sealed the deal for me. Jason Kapono hits off of a Delfino drive and you can see that the second unit has some of the chemistry we as fans have been pining for at last. And immediately after Washington inbounds the ball, Juan Dixon steals it, finds Delfino for an open jumper and while he misses, Andrea rebounds the ball and scores on a jumper of his own. I laughed at the whole sequence as Bargs barely had the ball from the rebound when he hoisted it back up, but it was one of those "these guys are locked-in tonight" plays. And from then on out it was basically smooth sailing.
Temperature Check –
Hot – The Raptors’ offence. Hard to single just one player out as even Maceo Baston had six points in nine minutes! And actually, does Maceo only practice dunks in practice time? He was looking to throw down everything within a foot of the rim and Juan Dixon found him for some easy rim-rockers. Perhaps he wants a little of Moon’s shine (pardon the pun?) The team had 30 assists last night, Jose with 11 of these, and the ball movement was serene. However the team was much more aggressive and players like Anthony Parker, Andrea Bargnani and Carlos Delfino looked to get to the rim instead of constantly settling for outside shots. This made all the difference as it helped spread the court and get team-mates easy looks. The Delfino-Dixon back-up combo started to look like a nice little tag-team as well. The two would take turns playing point or off-guard and it made it tough for the Wizards to know where the offence was coming from.
Hot – Juan Dixon. Speaking of Dixon, the much-maligned player finally looked the part of a back-up point guard last night. He forced one shot in the first half but played disciplined offensively overall, made some timely shots, and even better, had five assists on a number of pretty no-look set-ups. He also played his usual tenacious defence recording a game-high four steals. If you were looking for indicators that the Wizards were out of gas, the entire Washington team had only four steals. With Damon Stoudamire now a member of the Spurs and TJ Ford about to return to practice, looks like the Raps may have weathered the point guard storm.
Hot – Andrea Bargnani. The past few games have shown a much more confident Andrea and last night was no exception. Besides his 19 points, he did damage to the Wizards from both inside and out, looked to drive the ball, and even made some nice defensive plays looking to draw charges. The one thing was that I felt for all his aggressive play in the first half, he didn’t get nearly enough looks. This was corrected after the half but when he’s going, Jose needs to remember to keep him involved when he’s playing well.
Cold – The Washington Wizards. There’s just not much you can say about this. Roger Mason Jr. and Antawn Jamison brought it last night, but the Raptors did a much better job doubling Jamison and Blatche and forcing turnovers. The Wiz had 16 to Toronto’s seven and they just seemed to be looking forward to returning to Washington. The final game between these two clubs later this spring should be a good one as the last two really haven’t been a true indication of either club. Injuries and travel have unfortunately played parts in this and here at the HQ, we’ll have our calendars circled for March 7.
Moving On –
In the NBA, you can never get too high after a win, or too low after a loss.
Last night was a perfect example of this as Toronto could have come out tentative and tight after their last loss to a seriously under-manned Wiz team. However Toronto continued its home dominance, a key for a team that wants to compete with the best in the league.
The Raptors have the Lakers up next and hopefully we’ll have Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold to give us his thoughts on the Lakeshow.
It should be an entertaining game as the Lakers, even short-handed still have one of the NBA’s great equalizers in Kobe Bryant. It also should be a good test against one of the league’s best clubs, and a high-scoring one at that. With Toronto at home, I’m expecting them to come out aggressive and look to grab their seventh straight home win, especially if their shots are falling. In games like last night’s we really saw what Bryan Colangelo was trying to achieve with the group he put together. It’s pretty demoralizing for an opponent to maybe shut down Toronto’s starting wings and have guys like Kapono, Delfino and even Dixon then come in and punish you.
The key though, and as Toronto hopefully learned from their loss Tuesday night, is that when these shots aren’t going down, the entire team needs to pick it up in other areas. The Raps can’t just do that when things are going good in terms of shooting. BC discussed in the pre-season that by having players that shot so well, Toronto wouldn’t need the rebounders other teams needed. That theory may apply on the offensive end of the court, but defensively, Toronto still needs to prevent second-chance points.
On top of this you have to remember, the best shooters in the league hit only about half their shots. Therefore as tempting as it is to keep shooting away, each individual on the Dinos needs to understand that they need to contribute in other areas to get wins as sometimes, it just isn’t your shooting night.
But when it is like last night, it sure is a thing of beauty.