The Toronto Raptors finished the 2014-15 regular season with a backcourt that was showing serious cracks. Kyle Lowry had a seemingly endless list of ailments. DeMar DeRozan was forcing things where he shouldn't. Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams, while streaky on offense, were a pair of rotating doors on defense. Those cracks were blown open by the Washington Wizards, as John Wall and Bradley Beal provided the flood that ended Toronto's season with an embarrassing first round sweep.
With those memories and a new, defensive-oriented team, the Raptors came into tonight's game in Washington looking for revenge. Again, they got a Wizards team with the size to disrupt their offensive flow, as a season-high 22 Toronto turnovers gave this game a horri-awful aesthetic. With some defense of their own, though, they were able to hang in just long enough to give one of their new unsung additions a chance to play hero.
Cory Joseph, the anti-Vasquez, the ball-hawking offseason addition, hit the game-winning three tonight for the Raptors, sealing an 84-82 win that gives the team their fourth straight win. It was an outstanding moment that shone amidst a typical Cory Joseph night -- his other nine points (4-of-6 shooting) and six assists came quietly and efficiently.
I don't mean to express a man crush, but Joseph is just so solid. Apart from the game-winner, he had a pair of other moments that stood out. In the second quarter, he turned a Bismack Biyombo pick and roll into something productive, which is more than many Raptors can say.
Also, this pocket pass to Luis Scola early in the fourth was outstanding.
To get to the point where Joseph could win it, the Raptors (as they usually do) needed a big game from Kyle Lowry. 27 points on 9-for-19 shooting, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals -- what else can you say about this guy? He's the team's best player and has shown it in almost every game this season.
Setting up Joseph's game-winner was DeMar DeRozan, who was... well, mostly bad tonight. His 23 points came on 21 shots and he only had four free throw attempts, which is the ultimate stabilizer in his game. Most of DeMar's jumpers and forays into the paint were challenged, yet he was still the focus of the late game offense.
Offensive possessions after the 5-minute mark. Yet, the Raptors run it for DeMar with the game on the line. pic.twitter.com/n8EEHpvouI— John Gaudes (@johngaudes) November 29, 2015
To credit the growth of his game, though, DeRozan's pass to Joseph showed trust and a veteran understanding of the clock. In three seconds, he got the ball, dribbled twice to draw the defense, then got the pass off to a wide open Joseph in the corner.
The Wizards, despite forcing all those turnovers, shot just 32.9% from the field and 7-for-23 from deep. It was bad.
Bradley Beal had 20 points on just five shots, but disappeared down the stretch, as the Raptors defense took both him and Wall (who shot a horrid 6-for-25) out of the action. On the Wizards last possession, Wall was fouled and missed two free throws that could have pushed the lead to three; a fitting conclusion for a Washington team that loses their fourth straight game, and still looks all sorts of weird on the offensive end.
On a night we can casually call #EfficiencyFail, the Raptors were all the more happy that Cory Joseph was on their side. A guy brought in for guarding elite guards like John Wall got his moment to shine against John Wall. It doesn't get much better than that.
The Raptors return home to play the Phoenix Suns tomorrow, but let's revel in this one. What were your thoughts?