Watching this game, a couple of things really stood out to me. The first is that the Toronto Raptors are a better team than the Washington Wizards. I am aware that this is an obvious conclusion that anyone who knows how to read the NBA standings page could reach. When I say that the Raptors are better, I mean to the point where it would surprise me if the Raptors lost to this Wizards team. The second thing obvious statement of the night is that John Wall needs help. I realize that Bradley Beal is injured, but there isn't enough scoring on that roster to concern the better teams in this league.
The Wizards played Toronto even for the first 24 minutes, led by Wall and Porter in what was largely an uneventful and sloppy first half of basketball for both teams. Despite scoring 14 by half, DeRozan only connected on 5 of 14 shots. The most noteworthy thing about the first half is that the two teams combined for 21 turnovers, the Raptors with 9 and Wizards with 12.
Things got off to a poor start in the third, as the Raptors opened up with a Jonas Valanciunas three-in-the-key, but they managed to find some separation as the quarter wore on. DeRozan and Scola outscored the entire Washington team by a count of 18-14 for the quarter. A pleasant surprise was James Johnson who chipped in 6 of his 8 points in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was more of the same. Although I readily admit that this is an oversimplified way of looking at the game, I felt pretty comfortable with the Raptors' chances at winning this game upon seeing that Washington began the quarter starting Drew Gooden and Nene. Nonetheless, the fourth quarter was the DeMar and Kyle show, as the Toronto's All Stars accounted for all but four of the team's points. Although six turnovers is too high, the Raptors' starting point guard had a points and rebounds double-double, finishing with 21 points, 10 rebounds, as well as 4 assists and 4 steals. Even so, the star of the game goes to DeMar DeRozan, who finished with a season-high 35 points, to go along with 8 rebounds and one assist.
- I know that I've been singing his praises as of late, but Biyombo deserves it. Not only has Bismack seemed to have mastered the art of verticality when positioned and waiting for a driving defender, but he's shown an aptitude for recovering after being beaten from the perimeter. Case in point? Biyombo's block of Gary Neal in the fourth quarter. Biyombo picks up Neal as a result of transition defense, gets beaten, but manages to recover in an open-body stance for a clean block instead of reaching over Neal's shoulder from behind, across the arm as big-man defenders often do. Impressive.
- I have a question. At this point in the season, can anyone confidently state who the best player on the Raptors is? Coming into the season, I think most would have said confidently picked Lowry. I remember at some point in November, there being a minority of loud voices on Twitter clamouring about how weird it is that the Raptors keep marketing and pushing DeMar as "their guy" despite Lowry's superiority, and I agreed. After December DeMar, is this still the case?
- Once of my biggest NBA pet peeves reared its ugly head in this game. With the Raptors up 10, and 3:05 left in the game, Otto Porter Jr. leaked out for a fast break and was chased down by Patrick Patterson. Patterson made an honest effort at a chase down block, but was about a half of a second too late on the play, and ended up getting Porter's arm. The play ended with Porter falling to the ground in a manner often seen by players who's forward momentum lead them to slide on the floor, and grabbing at his wrist which he appeared to jam against the stanchion.
Here is my problem with this call: I am confident that had everything about this play been identical but for that Porter momentarily hurt his wrist, that the ruling would have been a common foul. The determination of a flagrant foul should hinge on a sole factor, which is whether the contact was unnecessary. If Patterson had been so late to the play that he resorted to nudging Porter out of the air, and the call would be fair. Calling a flagrant 1 because a player made the right play, just a half step too late essentially amounts to an extra penalty for trying to recover from being beaten on defense. There is already a built in penalty for this, and its called a common foul. All of this is a long winded way of saying that referees should assess a foul based on the play on the court, and not the players' reaction afterwards.
Anyway, what did you guys make of the game? Can we relax about the Wizards?