The Raptors 2 game winning streak was snapped last night in an overtime loss to the Washington Wizards. The high scoring and foul filled affair was close for the entire contest however Washington seemed to take the lead for good nearing the end of regulation. Morris Peterson, who was dynamite all game, refused to let the team die though and grabbed the miss of his own three point attempt and promptly dribbled to his favourite corner pocket and drained a three pointer to tie the game with about 5 seconds left. Washington couldn't score on the ensuing possession sending the game into overtime. Unfortunately the Raptors' inexperience showed in the extra frame and Washington took control winning 119 to 111.
The Raptors Offense - The Raps followed Sam Mitchell's game plan pretty well to a T on this end of the court. Chris Bosh and CV Smooth both got a lot of interior looks and the Raptors did a great job for the most part playing their offense inside to out hitting 9 three point shots. Washington's defence was not what you would call stellar allowing the Raptors to shoot 47.6% and through regulation Toronto was basically getting whatever it wanted in terms of shot selection. Bosh led Toronto with 27 points and 9 rebounds and Mo Pete was huge chipping in 21 points and 8 rebounds. CV Smooth had a great night offensively as well with 18 points. And finally, Jose Calderon almost went for his first NBA triple double notching 8 points, 9 rebounds and 13 assists.
The Raptors' Defence - On the other hand, Toronto lost this game for 2 main reasons and the first starts with a D and ends with FENCE. Toronto allowed Washington to shoot 50% from the field and simply allowed too many open looks. Toronto also didn't get a good enough rebounding performance from its bigs namely Chris Bosh and CV Smooth. Yes Bosh did have 9 rebounds...but so did JOSE CALDERON in less minutes. Villanueva only had 2 rebounds all night and while were both on the offensive glass, Washington had 12 offensive boards on the night with many resulting in easy putbacks. Perhaps the Raptors announcement today that Gene Keady is expected to be added to their coaching staff will help in these areas because the team at this stage simply can not afford to be outworked in areas such as defense and rebounding. They don't have the talent and experience yet to make up for any coasting...which brings us to the second reason the Raptors lost this game...
Gilbert Arenas - There's not much more you can say. Gilbert may be a bit of a ball hog in the Allen Iverson mode, but like Iverson, he's simply an amazing "one on one" talent. Toronto had no answer for him all night and his 3 point dagger with 19 seconds left in regulation while cocky was the type of shot star players take and make. Arenas had 37 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals and went to the free throw line 11 times. He was simply unstoppable. Yes, his shot selection must drive coach Eddie Jordan mad at times, and there will undoubtedly be times when his lack of "team play" kills his team when his shot isn't falling...but his pure talent got Washington this win. Caron Butler had no impact on the game and while Jarvis Hayes finished with 21 points, most of his scoring came in the first quarter of the game. In fact besides Washington's other All-Star Antawn Jamison, who was his usual solid self with 26 points, 14 boards and 7 assists, Arenas got very little help and Toronto's bench outscored Washington's 44 TO 13! This stat really puts things into perspective. Toronto got great team play all night but in the end, as we've said before, it's great individual talent that wins games in the NBA and Washington got it from both of its All-Stars to secure the victory.
The bottom line here is that while this Raptor team is improving and with each game looks to be closer and closer to being comfortable playing together, they can't afford mental errors and bad decisions if they want to win tight games such as these. It's one thing for a team with a Gilbert Arenas on it to coast at times...Arenas can come right back after a lacksidaisical defensive play by his team and drain a three with a hand in his face. The Raptors don't currently have this luxury and have to grind out each game through 48 full minutes if they want to win. The positive thing about this is that as the talent and experience of this team builds, the team will be better prepared to face any opponent and this will be especially useful against the San Antonio's and Detroit's of the league. After all...Washington may have won tonight because their jump shots couldn't miss...but a team that lives and dies by the jump shot in the end just isn't going to be able to compete on a consistent basis...just ask the members of the Toronto Raptors who were here during most of the Vince Carter era...