With the Raptors getting sloppy in the third quarter against the Wizards on Friday night, it was fair to wonder if this would be yet another game in which a sizable early lead gave way to nail-biter of a finish. It’s happened a few too many times over the past few weeks, as Toronto has struggled to get healthy and re-integrate their injured players. But with the Raptors now almost whole, and with a couple of games under their collective belt, surely a late collapse wouldn’t happen against Washington, right?
Surely! Toronto controlled this one with almost comical ease, allowing the Wizards to get as close as nine points five minutes into the third — but no more. Behind a shooting barrage from up and down the roster, and the Wizards’ general disinterest in doing anything well on the court, the Raptors cruised to an easy, eaaaaasy 140-111 win. That’s right, 140 points. It ties a franchise record for points in a game by Toronto. And it’s their most ever in regulation.
The Raptors were led by the explosive efforts of Norman Powell off the bench, and OG Anunoby in the starting lineup. The former checked into the game and immediately started to fill it up, dropping 15 points in 15 minutes of game action. Powell would finish with 28 points on the night, on 10-of-17 shooting (and 4-of-9 from three), to go with five rebounds and three steals. Since coming back from injury, Powell has looked, if I may say, even better than he was in 2019. One play sticks out in my mind from the night: Norm drove in semi-transition and faked the shot attempt, getting a few Wizards to fly by. Instead of forcing a difficult shot from there, he patiently reset the play. (Terence Davis missed the ensuing three, but you get my point.) It’s a boon for the Raptors if Powell can keep up this level of production and this level of calm.
Anunoby, meanwhile, came out on a mission to break the Wizards’ spirit. Washington had, if you can believe this, 28 turnovers on the night, with OG personally helping to generate more than a few. On the night, Anunoby finished with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting, with six rebounds, two assists, and, yes, four steals. He was also able to bottle up everyone the Wizards put in front of him, including the holy terror Bradley Beal, who had a disheartened 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting. With that kind of production from the wing, the Raptors had less of a need for a heroic Kyle Lowry performance, which was a good thing for Toronto because, well, Lowry took some hits.
In the first quarter, with the Raptors rolling to a 38-point frame, Lowry went down with what was later deemed a “banged right knee.” He limped off the court and sat for five minutes of the second before checking back in. From there he was able to put in a few more minutes of work, picking up a couple of fouls in the process, before heading to the locker room again. Still, there was no real cause for concern: Lowry was out to start the third, and in truth, wasn’t really needed at all. He’d finish the night with 11 points and eight assists, along with, oh yeah, the absolute shot of the night, which of course did not lead to a foul call in his favour:
Anchoring this all for the Raptors was Marc Gasol, who played perhaps his most productive game of the season for Toronto. In just shy of 29 minutes, Gasol had a season-high 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, to go with six rebounds and five assists. More than that though was Gasol’s poise and ability to direct traffic for Toronto when some of the team’s lesser offensive lights were on the floor.
Case in point, here’s Gasol turning the extremely hesitant Patrick McCaw into a useful player simply by making, well, a non-simple pass:
It’s that kind of frontcourt skill the Raptors have been missing, to say nothing of Gasol’s other defensive intangibles. It’s how he ended up leading the team in plus/minus at 26, and how he started having fun later in the game trying things like an off-the-dribble three (which he hit at the buzzer of the third) and some wrap-around ball-handling, which led to a bucket. It’s heartening to see Gasol playing with this kind of flair after what had been a very long 2019 thanks to the Raptors’ championship drive and his role in Spain’s World Cup win. Yes, this all happened against the likes of dudes like Ian Mahinmi and Thomas Bryant, hardly the biggest stars in the NBA, but Gasol in peak form is still such a delight.
On an opposite note, we can express a beat of concern here for Pascal Siakam, who still hasn’t quite regained his pre-injury form. Siakam played just 25 minutes tonight, for 12 points, two rebounds, and three assists. More than that though, he looked a bit checked out for long stretches, especially on defense. Now, admittedly, it’s hard to get up for a game against the Wizards, especially since they themselves don’t seem particularly motivated to work too hard — but it would be nice to see the full Pascal of late 2019. There’s obviously still a lot of regular season to go — exactly half, in fact — but it’s a situation worth keeping an eye on.
In any case, Toronto definitely didn’t need to sweat anything tonight. They shot 57 percent from the field and 51 percent from three, and not even their 19 turnovers could dislodge the lead they maintained throughout. There are so many good things to mention here I almost forgot to mention Serge Ibaka’s workman-like 15-and-8 and Terence Davis’ late-amassing of 23-7-3. It’s an embarrassment of riches, really. Unlike some of Toronto’s other recent games, Washington’s heart (and skill) were not enough to cause any real worry. And if poor Beal wasn’t angry enough about all his team’s losing, you’d have to suspect he’s a few degrees more heated now.