Beating the Washington Wizards into the ground never gets old, does it? That playoff sweep was four-and-a-half years ago, and John Wall has been hurt forever and Bradley Beal is the only other player left from that roster. But still... every time the Toronto Raptors down the Wizards — six in a row now! — it still feels pretty good!
Like the Raptors of Old (uh, Two Months Ago)
One of the best things about the early season (aka, healthy) Raptors was seeing them turn defense into offense. They defended the paint incredibly well, the got their hands into the passing lanes, and they turned turnovers into transition opportunities.
The Wizards turned it over 28(!) times, leading to 30 Raptors points, and the Raptors racked up 34 fast break points.
I can’t credit one person for all of it, but having Marc Gasol back sure does help, doesn’t it? Having him anchor the D, and push the ball ahead off of stops, really gets this Raptors team going.
And speaking of Gasol getting things going...
Marc Gasol, Offensive Beast
20 points!? On nine shots, seven of them three-pointers!? Who is this guy?
Marc Gasol has been a source of frustration for Raptors fans, and definitely this column, all year long. He’s been hesitant, and we want him taking shots!
Well it looks like we’re finally getting just that. That’s two games in a row Marc’s taken nine shots, just the seventh and eighth time he’s reached that many attempts in his 29 games this season. Maybe, finally, after almost a year, he’s getting comfortable enough with this group to assert himself? I guess I can’t judge. It definitely takes me time to warm up to new groups of people too!
No Letting Up (Well, Mostly)
Much like Wednesday night, and so many other nights lately, the Raptors jumped out to an early lead. And as I wrote about following Wednesday’s game, you just can’t feel safe with a lead right now, given Toronto’s recent history of letting teams back into games.
So it was great to see the Raps hang on to, and in fact build on, that lead, throughout the game... mostly. The Wizards made a brief run in the third to cut the lead to nine, but — unlike in the past few games — the Raptors were able to immediate respond, going on an 8-0 run, and then, after trading a handful of buckets, another 9-0 run to end the third quarter and the rout was on.
Now, can they do that against any of the better teams in the league? We’ll have to wait a couple games to find out, but last night was a step in the right direction.
Beal’s 0-for Trip
Early in the first quarter last night, Bradley Beal — who I don’t have to tell you has been deadly against the Raptors — gave us an indication of how the night might go for his team.
He stepped behind the arc for a three that missed — with a good contest from Serge Ibaka. But with Serge out of position, Isaac Bonga was able to snag the board and dish it right back to Beal... who missed another three, but got his own rebound... and missed a short baseline J.
0-for-3 on one trip from the assassin Beal? You had to feel good about the Raptors’ chances after that one.
Is Swingin’ Wings Over?
I started the weekly Swingin’ Wings column to track who on this Raptors team would most ably fill the shoes of the departing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The offseason favourites would have been OG Anunoby and Norman Powell, but some inconsistency from Anunoby and the injury to Powell left lots of room for debate.
But, over the past three games, Anunoby and Powell have really started to bring it. True, Powell has come off the bench in two of the games (with OG starting at the 2-guard spot) but productivity-wise, the numbers don’t lie:
Anunoby: 15.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2.7 steals, 61%FG / 46%3FG
Powell: 19.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.3 steals, 64%FG / 55%3FG
Now, three games don’t make a trend, and those shooting numbers will come back down to earth. But if they can play consistently solid ball like this? I may have to retire that column!
It’s right back at it tonight for the Raptors as they travel to Minnesota. Can they make it three wins in a row?