It’s a journalistic principle not to bury the lede, so I won’t. The Raptors play games on the road, too. After two games at home to start the season, the Toronto Raptors played their third game in four nights—the tail end of the season’s first back-to-back—in Washington against the Wizards. And what a game it was on this Saturday night. With a resting Kawhi Leonard and a still-injured Delon Wright out, the Raptors went in to the Verizon Center and secured their third win of the season by a score of 117-113.
In another new-look starting lineup, with Jonas Valanciunas and OG Anunoby replacing Leonard and Ibaka, Kyle Lowry led the Raptors charge throughout the game. He finished with 28 points and 12 assists.
It started slowly, though, and that made sense. Having flown into Washington late last night/early this morning, the Raptors played tired for the opening minutes of the first frame and some elements of sluggishness lingered throughout the whole affair.
In a first frame to be both remembered and forgotten, Raps fans got looks at point-centre Jonas Valanciunas doing it all himself and also too-early-but-not-often Lorenzo Brown. The back-and-forth battle that came to define this game was present throughout: Small, early Wizards leads to start dissipated by the end of the 1st quarter. The Raptors took the lead, 24-22.
The 2nd quarter seemed to flow better, but that could have something to do with both an increased surge on offence and maybe a decreased effort on the defensive end. Again, let’s talk about the back-and-forth: The Raps won the middle section of the quarter strongly, spurred on by a 10-0 run (eight in a row from Kyle, two from Jonas Valanciunas free throws), but the Wizards closed more strongly with an 11-0 run of their own.
The Raptors took a 57-54 lead into the 3rd quarter and the sluggish end to the 2nd somehow transferred over the halftime break. Turnovers turned into Wizards points regularly, as an 8-0 run from John Wall and the Wiz gave the home team a 62-59 lead.
Checking in with 5:52 left in the quarter, Fred VanVleet made this quarter his own as he often does. The Raptors were down 71-69 when he checked in and they were up 90-82 at the end of the frame. His seven points and two assists in the quarter helped get the Raptors moving.
But as basketball is, the game of runs was not over. Bradley Beal—and the 32 points he finished with—helped the Wizards crawl all their way back from down 13 to down just two in the final possessions. There was a reason for that. As always, the Wizards players feel the world is out to get them and a Bradley Beal technical and Scott Brooks ejection on a John Wall non-call fired them up appropriately. Wall had 25 points by the way, if you were wondering.
Who else but Kyle Lowry would take the team on his shoulders to victory. In the final three minutes, he took a charge, hit a 3, and found his way into the scramble for a jump ball. Kyle Lowry over everything.
It was Fred VanVleet, though, who hit a jump shot with the shot clock expiring to ice the game for the Raptors. VanVleet makes things happen for the Raptors: He’s had to in the absence of his partner Delon. But it’s worked thus far. It’s fun. The Raptors love walking into Washington and taking games late, killing crowds. Did I say it’s fun?
Overall, the well-rounded effort in the absence of Kawhi Leonard and Delon Wright was evident: Seven Raptors scored in double-digits. The Raptors putting 14 offensive rebounds on the board (including Pascal Siakam’s key one on a Kyle Lowry three late) was awesome.
The Raptors’ season is just getting started. Buckle in.