So you're saying Kyle Lowry should've been an All Star? It looked like the break had some positive effects on many of the ailing Raptors, as they came out tonight looking fresh and ready to duke it out with the Washington Wizards. Kyle Lowry especially looked like he'd taken his All Star snubbing personally and shone in his match up with John Wall. Also of note, Amir Johnson looked healthy for the first time in a while, and it certainly made his game much more effective.
Right out of the gate, you saw the strategy Dwane Casey had in mind as far as the bigs were concerned. With a game tomorrow night against the Chicago Bulls, Casey rotated the bigs frequently in order to keep their minutes in check. Both teams found it difficult to get any sort of defensive rhythm going, as they shot over 50% to end the 1st quarter knotted up 27-27. For the entirety of the first half, John Wall absolutely torched the Raptors with 19 points on 9 of 12 shooting. Fortunately for the Raptors, no one else really had it going for Washington. The Raptors collectively shot a cool 57% from the field to that point, and had a very balanced scoring output, led by Jonas Valanciunas with 10 points in 5 of 6 shooting. Toronto took a 55-49 lead at the break.
You have to give Casey a lot of credit for the adjustments made at half. Wall scored only 3 points in the entire 2nd half; the Raptors did a much better job of showing and rotating on pick and rolls. The mode of attack was also quite different. Kyle Lowry had been relatively quiet to that point, but dominated the Wizards with 18 points in the 2nd half (and 14 in the 3rd quarter) to stretch the Raptor lead to 20. After Randy Wittman got himself ejected for arguing a charge call, the Wizards put together a spirited comeback with 2 minutes left and cut the lead to 7, but couldn't get it any closer as the Raptors hung on for the 103-93 win.
- The Bigs: Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough, Amir Johnson. The last 5 minutes notwithstanding, the front court was pivotal in tonight's win. They collectively shot 18-26 and played a key role in tightening the screws on defence as well.
- Kyle Lowry, All Star: He's the best point guard in the East in my book. He took the challenge of playing against John Wall personally and did a great job. He continues to put his body on the line for the team, and when he's performing well, the team generally is too. 24 points, 10 assists and great defence when it counted.
- Defensive Rebounding: This is an issue to keep an eye on, since it started creeping up in the 2 weeks prior to the break. The Raptors were out-rebounded 40 to 29, and gave up SIXTEEN offensive boards to the Wizards. Now, Marcin Gortat and Nene are big bodies, but Toronto has to do a better job of backing up solid defence by clearing the glass.
- Jonas Valanciunas Getting Crowned: A friend and I have noticed a trend of JV getting dunked on far more often than he should. It doesn't mean he's playing badly, but stay off the posters, rotate quicker and foul 'em hard if you have to.