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Raptors bend, don’t break, defeat Wizards 109-100

Led once again by their defense and by Fred VanVleet, the Raptors knocked off the Wizards for their fifth straight win.

Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors have won five straight games for the first time since the 2019-20 season, thanks to a 109-100 victory over the Washington Wizards.

The Raptors used a big second quarter, where they outscored the Wizards 30-19 and built a 14-point lead at one point, to give themselves breathing room. The Wizards, undefeated at home coming into the game, didn’t go easily, cutting the lead to five in the third and six in the fourth. But with Fred VanVleet running the show, and all five starters contributing, the Raptors answered every Wizards rally and held on for the win.

VanVleet led all scorers with 33 points, and he chipped in three boards and six assists as well. OG Anunoby, who saw multiple defenders all night, finished with 21.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 25 points, and Montrezl Harrell added 15 points and 10 boards off the bench.

It was VanVleet and Anunoby who led the way in that all-important second quarter, scoring nine apiece in the frame. The quarter started at a frenetic pace, with both teams trading buckets and playing little defense. About halfway through the period, the Raptors finally got some separation, punctuated by an OG Anunoby steal and runout dunk to push the lead to eight, part of an 11-2 Raptors run.

The Raptors needed everything they got from their starters on this night. Dalano Banton was his usual energetic self, and Khem Birch was excellent but limited by foul trouble. Chris Boucher again didn’t look great, although he did set a solid screen that freed FVV for an open shot in that 11-2 run. Yes, Chris’ play has been so poor that I will accept a screen assist as a highlight! To his credit, Boucher did crash the offensive glass on the next possession to put back a Birch miss.

The aforementioned foul trouble kept Birch off the floor late in the second, which was a shame because that’s when Malachi Flynn briefly came into the game — I liked the PnR chemistry between Flyyn and Birch that we saw in New York, and was hoping to see more. Flynn still was a positive though, finding Svi Mykhailiuk for a transition three off a steal that ran the first-half lead up to 14.

But it was Harrell, again causing all kinds of problems for the Raptors, that helped keep the Wizards in it. He scored four points in a 6-0 Wizards run that cut the lead to eight with under a minute to go in the half. Just when it looked like Washington was going to get even closer, OG Anunoby blocked a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three-pointer, which led to a Gary Trent and-1 as the half ended and kept the lead at double-digits.

And that was the story of the game: The Raptors would jump out to a lead, the Wizards would fight back, the Raptors would counterpunch.

The third started off in a way we’ve suddenly come to expect — with a Gary Trent steal. He deflected a ball into the backcourt on Washington’s second possession too, and then snagged a defensive rebound and found VanVleet for a layup. After a couple of VanVleet free throws the Raptors had their largest lead, 66-50, and then — yep — the Wizards fought back.

After the teams traded buckets, Birch — who started the second half for Achiuwa, much like he did on Monday — picked up his fourth foul and had to sit. Washington seemed to wake up then, and the Raptors offense went to sleep, as the Wizards went on a 15-4 run to get the lead down to five. Only A Fred VanVleet three stopped the bleeding,

The start of the fourth was another Fred VanVleet showcase. He initiated a beautiful PnR with Birch as soon as the latter checked back in, and then VanVleet found Birch again on a short roll to stretch the lead back to 12. It reached 15 when Birch — again off a PnR dish from VanVleet — turned and found Anunoby for three.

Surely you can guess what happened next, right? A Caldwell-Pope jumper, three Bradley Beal free throws, and two more Harrell free throws cut that lead to eight. Everything we’ve heard over the past couple weeks about the refs “letting them play” didn’t seem to the Raptors on this night, as they were called for more than a few soft fouls, leading to a 31-15 free throw advantage before the Wizards started fouling to extend the clock.

To their credit, the Wizards hunkered down on defense in the final frame. After letting VanVleet run them ragged early in the quarter, the Wizards finally got up tight on Freddy and didn’t give him room to operate. Which meant we got to watch him dribble the air out of the ball for three straight possessions, never something you want to see, and a two-minute-plus scoring drought was the result. It wasn’t until VanVleet grabbed a defensive rebound and took it coast-to-coast for a layup that the Raptors scored, and misses from Beal and Spencer Dinwiddie sealed the deal.

The game started off on the right foot for the Raptors, with Precious Achiuwa getting a dunk and Gary Trent Jr. draining a short J. It looks like the Fred VanVleet-Achiuwa pick-and-roll chemistry is improving (and the lob chemistry too!) as VanVleet looked for his center early on. Despite that lob and a vicious third-quarter dunk, Achiuwa had another rough offensive night (2-for-9 from the field). He did provide some solid D, though, and pulled in another 10 boards.

Trent and Svi Mykhailiuk each scored 15 for the Raptors.

The Raptors return home on Friday night to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.