I certainly didn’t expect much out of last night’s game between the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards. Washington is bad, Toronto is good and both teams were missing a ton of players due to injury.
Turns out, we got a pretty entertaining game out of it! Sure, it’s a bummer that the Raptors let an 18-point lead evaporate, but when you’re dealing with an otherworldly talent on the opposing team, these things happen.
I’m talking about Ish Smith, of course.
Anywho, the Raps came away with the win, and are an impressive 20-8 as they head into a tough four-game stretch. Let’s look at who played well and stepped up last night:
Whole lotta Rondae
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was featured a lot last night, and it’s not immediately clear if this was part of Nick Nurse’s plan, or if Rondae was taking things into his own hands.
He had four post-ups, by my count, and launched two three-pointers, as part of his eight shot attempts. (The other two were more traditional catches from the dunker’s spot.)
Is that really what the Raptors want from Hollis-Jefferson?
Even though I don’t think much of Rondae’s range, I’m kinda OK with the triples. If you’re open, you should take them. But the post-ups? I guess they worked — they got him to the rim and to the foul line —but it really takes the Raptors out of their offense when RHJ is dribbling for 12 straight seconds.
How about Patrick McCaw coming through on offense last night? He had three buckets early; the Wizards leave a lot of space on the floor open, perfect for back cuts and open lanes to the hoop, and McCaw took advantage. Of greater note, though, he canned a late three-pointer that broke a 109-109 tie, and the Raptors never trailed again.
Now, McCaw did brick a three earlier, and tried to post-up when he had a mismatch agaisnt Isiaiah Thomas (it didn’t go well). But I would prefer all of that, even if it doesn’t work, to the hesitancy that we’ve seen from him too often. Perhaps that three-pointer will give him confidence to let it fly when the opportunities present.
Need More from Malcolm
When top rotation players get hurt we tend to focus on the guys from the second string who will replace them. But those guys’ minutes also need to be replaced, and that’s where a guy like Malcolm Miller comes in. With Patrick McCaw and Terence Davis shifting up, and Matt Thomas still hurt, Miller has a chance to play regular, if limited, minutes with Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam out.
Unfortunately he didn’t do much of anything last night, and that’s disappointing. He was hesitant with his shot and looked like he didn’t know where to go on offense; he ended up 0-for-1 with zero points in 13 minutes. Against the defenseless Wizards!
I really like Miller, as I’ve said before, and someone in the organization must too, if they’ve kept him around this long. But at some point, he’s got to show something.
You Won’t See a Better Four Seconds
This little sequence at the end of the half is one of my favourite highlights of the season:
Raptors basketball at its FINEST pic.twitter.com/MXTJ0gCutO— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 21, 2019
I love that Serge’s block fell right into Fred VanVleet’s hands. And OG soaring to the hoop through two defenders, just perfect.
But speaking of OG...
Street Fighter OG
Has OG come out of his ice bath yet? Man, he must have needed an extra long one after last night’s game, ‘cause he got the crap kicked out of him.
My informal count had him hitting the deck, either by getting clobbered or chasing a loose ball, six times; he got a bloody nose, twice; and he ended up in the stands chasing another ball.
Now, you gotta love the hustle, and the aggression with which Anunoby was taking the ball to the rim. But I was genuinely fearful for the guy! OG, please, don't get hurt out there man.
Aside from the bumps and bruises, Anunoby was awesome last night. 18 points and seven boards, and he shot the three with confidence, hitting 2-of-5. As always, he defended at a high level as well. He’s not the scorer that Pascal Siakam is, but the Raptors will need output like this from OG to stay afloat however long Siakam is out.
I wish we could say we learned something from this game, but I don’t think we did. The Wizards are a terrible defensive team, and Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and OG Anunoby all took advantage. That’s exactly what we’d expect from our top (remaining) guys.
But a better team — like the ones the Raptors will face in the next week — will do a better job taking those guys away, and that’s where guys like Malcolm Miller and Chris Boucher will need to step up.