The final box score says 105-96 for the Wizards, but make no mistake: the Raptors lost tonight. Italics wholly necessary. If asked why it happened, we could point to the absence of Kyle Lowry. Toronto needs him to give shape, form and reason to this team. Without him, we are left with this outcome, and more questions.
So what happened? John Wall mostly did what he wanted for a casual 12 points and 13 assists; Marcin Gortat stunted on Jonas Valanciunas for a laughing 12 points and 8 rebounds; Bradley Beal hit shots for 23 points; even newcomer Bojan Bogdanovic fit right in — he was the game’s high scorer with 27. The Raptors had no answers.
Toronto tried for a time, of course. In the first quarter they showed fire, battling back from a small deficit and holding the Wizards to 24 points to take a two point lead into the second. But a 26-3 run ended that, along with any chance of victory. The Raptors were undone by the Wizards’ supposed anemic bench unit — which includes Bogdanovic, Ian Mahinmi, Kelly Oubre Jr., Tomas Satoransky, and, good lord, Jason Smith. All five of them were into the double digits for plus-minus on the game. How could this occur?
DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka, with a slice of Cory Joseph, were the only Raptors playing with any kind of fire. DeRozan had 24 points on 7-of-20 shooting, along with four rebounds and two assists. That last stat is a lot when you consider the Raptors had 11 in the game — and three for the first three quarters. He also may or may not have been responsible for this:
A rather loud expletive could be heard coming from the Raptors locker room. We're in the room across the hall— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 2, 2017
Ibaka also played through the misery, putting up 22 points and 12 rebounds, with two blocks and the only good shooting night on the team. He was 8-of-17 from the field and a much (much) needed 4-of-6 from three. That Ibaka later got blocked by Wall was an indignity I hope he’s able to shake off. Serge deserves better. For his part, Joseph had 11 points and one assist — not great — but he did what he could on the force of nature Wall. We’re looking for any silver lining answer here.
The majority of the night was bad. DeMarre Carroll went 0-for-3 in 29 minutes for zero points. Patrick Patterson was 0-for-6 in 20 minutes for zero points. Valanciunas had some putbacks and seven offensive rebounds but the calls to run the offense through him found only dead air in response. JV was -15 in his 21 minutes for seven points and 11 rebounds, and was soundly sonned by his father Marcin. It was discouraging, to say the least. To close out the game, Norman Powell’s effort and 17 points were not in question, but his grind needs a little direction right now.
Coach Dwane Casey admitted afterwards the team needs more ball movement, an obvious answer. The Raptors shot 36.7 percent for the game, which didn’t help the assist numbers either. (It was 5 percent lower for most of the night, until the Wizards stopped trying.) More ball movement means more open shots, which means a potentially higher shooting percentage. If this was Jeopardy we could end on “what is a game plan?” and be done with it.
But the Lowry question still hangs in the air. What is this team supposed to do on Friday in their Wizards rematch? How about for the rest of the month? I’d love to buzz in here with an answer, but there may not be one. Except perhaps: four to five weeks is a long time.