What just happened?! Did I lapse into a coma and dream a game that the Toronto Raptors led by 13, nearly blew in regulation thanks to a run of dumb mistakes, sent it to overtime on a Fred VanVleet three, where the Washington Wizards took a turn making dumb mistakes before finally, a Siakam missed three mercifully ended things?
Or did that actually happen?
Sigh. I don’t know what the heck I watched last night, but it was ridiculous and beautiful and dumb and amazing and awful, all at the same time.
Thank God it’s over.
I don’t even know how to count all the ways these two teams screwed up in the clutch last night. Let’s run down a few:
- Stanley Johnson shot a three-pointer with 1:30 left.
- Pascal Siakam missed a free throw.
- Siakam committed an offensive foul
- Khem Birch fouled Bradley Beal on a three-point attempt
- Beal missed a free throw
- Siakam missed another free throw (the Raptors shot 3-for-8 from the line in the fourth quarter)
- The Raptors went for two, down three, with 10 seconds left and no timeouts (this worked out, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a dumb play!)
- The Wizards, up three, didn’t foul the Raptors in the backcourt, allowing VanVleet to hit the game-tying three.
Then in OT, the anti-clutchness continued!
With less than two minutes to go, this happened:
Then, down three, Siakam missed another free throw
After a Beal and-1 and an overturned call and two Robin Lopez free throws, and a Bembry putback the other way, the Wizards were up four when Russell Westbrook double-dribbled in the backcourt. But it wasn’t called! And everyone (including Russ) was so shocked that Westbrook... threw the ball away.
The Raptors, presumably equally stunned… sat on the ball for 10 seconds! Down four with 25 seconds to go!!
Then Westbrook bailed the Raps out by committing a foul to stop the clock! (And foul out!)
And finally, down three with no timeouts an 3.9 second to go, the Raptors elected to have Gary Trent inbound the ball under the Wizards basket, and Siakam oddly dribbled to the right wing to shoot a fadeaway three, rather than try and get something going to the hoop.
Neither of these teams deserves to be in the playoffs, I’ll tell you that much.
2. Locking up Russ and Brad
I thought the Raptors did a solid job last night collapsing on Russell Westbrook and preventing him from getting downhill. Naturally, you’re not gonna stop Russ every time, but the Raptors stuck to their plan and it worked — you could seven see Westbrook getting frustrated at times.
As for Beal, the Raptors threw a bunch of different looks at him, including a box-and-one. Beal eventually got his; he ended up shooting 11-of-22 and had 14 in the fourth and OT, but Westbrook shot 5-for-19.
What’s great about this is that the Raptors were able to do it with their makeshift lineup, without OG Anunoby (and Yuta Watanabe, too, who’s also blossoming into an excellent defender). Seeing Khem Birch and Gary Trent picking up the scheme is a good thing to see.
3. Move the Rock
Speaking of the new guys picking things up, how about this sequence, in which all of these virtual strangers connect like they’ve playing with each other for years:
Everyone touches the ball and the best three-point shooter ends up with a clean look. That’s how you draw it up!
4. Credit the D
The Wizards’ D, that is. The Raptors were getting pretty much whatever they wanted in the first half, but the Wizards really turned up the intensity on the defensive end after halftime.
It’s also of interest that while the Raptors’ bench has been the weak link of late, but last night, the Wizards got back into the game in the third quarter, before the bench came in.
The Raptors predictable offensive lull coming with 5 starters on the court is a troubling happenstance— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) May 7, 2021
Which is not to say the Raps’ bench was good, per se — Robin Lopez outscored the Raptors bench by himself — but for once, they don’t deserve all the blame.
5. S--t or Get off the Pot
The Raptors have (or had, perhaps) a very slim chance at making the play-in game. Beating the Wizards was a pretty important step towards making it!
Yet they rested Kyle Lowry. And how serious are injuries to OG Anunoby and Yuta Watanabe?
It seems like, by sitting so many guys, winning isn’t important right now. Which is fine, honestly! But then why is Fred VanVleet playing 85 minutes combined over the past two games? Especially since he’s the one with the bad hip! Shouldn’t Pascal Siakam be getting rest too? Why not sit bruised-up Gary Trent the rest of the way?
Nick Nurse says the Lowry rest decision is a convo with himself, Bobby, Masai, and is about getting longer evaluation looks/reps for other guys as much as anything.— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) May 6, 2021
I’m just saying… the team doesn’t seem to be trying hard to win, but it also doesn’t seem to be trying hard to protect its players. Go one way or the other!
There probably isn’t a better symbol of this messed up Raptors season than that game, right? Bunch of players missing, forcing OT, getting booed at “home,” losing but amazingly, still mathematically alive in the play-in chase.
Mercifully, the end is in sight.