The first quarter didn’t start well for Toronto. The Raptors constantly struggled to pick up and stick with shooters on the defensive end, and the Washington Wizards made them pay. As such, between the Raptors being ice cold offensively and Jonas Valanciunas getting in early foul trouble, they quickly found themselves down 14 just seven minutes into the game.
After going to the same unit that closed the Orlando game (the two stars with Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl), the Raptors closed the gap to 8 by the end of the quarter, mostly on the strength of improved defence, as they still couldn’t hit a shot. After one, the team had missed all 8 of their three point attempts, as well as several open layups.
The hope was that the second unit would make one of their customary second quarter runs, and so they did. The lead was down to two within 50 seconds, and the bench unit (with guest appearances from Lucas Nogueira and two-way player Malcolm Miller) had created a three point lead by the time the starters began trickling back into the game. The bench disparity against the Wizards was clearly a huge advantage, and the Raptors capitalized. The Raptors starters held their own this time around, entering the half with a 4 point lead, in spite of some poor shooting from distance and from the free throw line.
The Raptors hoped to start the third quarter off strong, as a good stretch before the bench subs in is often the formula for big wins for the team. The lead stretched out to 10 within the first few minutes, but Washington predictably heated up and pulled back even before the Raptors went to four bench players alongside DeMar DeRozan with a couple minutes left in the third. That unit would stop the bleeding but not gain much either, with the quarter ending with the Raptors up three.
Once again, the Raptors would look to their bench unit to take advantage of Washington’s lack of depth and extend the lead without Bradley Beal in the game. Sadly Beal would check back in quickly, and the bench would have a tougher assignment. The Wizards would tie the game on the strength of some cold shooting from the Raptors (outside of some threes from Miles), and by the time both Kyle Lowry and DeRozan were back in the game with 5:38 left, the Raptors were leading by only one.
Luckily, C.J. Miles would continue his hot shooting, and along with good defence by the small ball group the Raptors ran out (Miles at PF beside Poeltl), the Raptors opened up a six point lead with three minutes left. The defence and spacing of the small group would help the Raptors ice it down the stretch, opening up plenty of room for DeRozan to score down the stretch, and keeping Beal from similarly going off in the clutch.
Overall this was a solid win on the road against a quality playoff bound opponent, even in the face of uncharacteristic poor free throw shooting (20-of-32) and a rough night from long range (10-of-33, and 4-of-24 outside of CJ Miles).
Miles’ hot shooting (6-of-9 from three and 20 points on 10 FGA overall) and solid all around play from the bench unit in particular stood out in this one.
The Raptors move to 2-2 on the season against the Wizards, and now won’t face them the rest of the year unless they match up in the playoffs.