The Toronto Raptors were happy to be home Monday night after 11 days on the road... but their play tonight was giving jet lag. Let’s ignore the fact that they mostly stayed in the Eastern Conference...
It also worked out that the Washington Wizards were coming to town — a team that is among the bottom of the NBA rankings and has an incredibly young roster. It was expected to be a pretty easy night for Toronto tonight.
It was not that — but it was a win.
The first dagger came when O.G. Anunoby — the pillar of the Raptors defence — was ruled out after suffering a finger laceration doing chores at home on his off day. Gary Trent Jr was also ruled out due to plantar fasciitis.
Darko opted to start Otto Porter Jr. in Anunoby’s place — so it was Porter Jr., Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Scottie Barnes, and Dennis Schroder to start for Toronto.
The Raptors had a rough first quarter, struggling to overcome the size of Washington’s lineup. They weren’t getting many opportunities to shoot from distance, only attempting five three pointers and making two. They struggled to protect the rim, allowing the Wizards to get ahead.
One highlight of the first quarter for Toronto was Gradey Dick making two three point shots (the only two for the Raptors). He has been struggling early in the season with his shot making — maybe beginner’s nerves — and it was nice to see him drain a few.
Still, it wasn’t enough and the Raptors ended the quarter down 32-25.
The second quarter started with the Wizards extending their lead to 10 points, and then even more to 13 points... and then to 19 points. The Raptors’ rim protection was basically non-existent, while on the other end, they couldn’t get anything to fall. Kyle Kuzma was having a time and had 15 points by the halfway point of the second quarter.
By the end of the half, the Raptors were down 64-45 to the Wizards.
Raptors are held to 45 points in the first half, the fewest points the Wizards have held an opponent to at halftime in any game this season.— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) November 14, 2023
In the first half, they shot 18.2% from three point range — as opposed to the Wizards’ 63.6%. Kyle Kuzma ended the half with 19 points, one assist and one rebound, and was +18.
Raptors haven't been able to score over 50% from the floor in any quarter so far & haven't been able to hold the Wizards to below 50% from the floor in any quarter so far. pic.twitter.com/jgaVzxsUQM— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) November 14, 2023
The Raptors were able to cut the Wizards’ lead back to ten at the end of the third quarter, ending on a 9-0 run. Pascal Siakam scored 22 points in the third quarter, the second most he has ever scored in a single quarter his whole career. The score was 91-81 going into the fourth. Within reach...
Yet, Washington got back up by 16 to kick off the final quarter. Toronto had to work again to get it back to ten — which they did!
There was hope again as the Raptors brought it within five. They were able to get a few crucial stops, but a few messy mistakes stopped them from getting ahead quicker. With 1:23 in the game, the Raptors had it within two points. Chris Boucher tied it with 51 seconds to go.
With 7.6 seconds to go, Pascal Siakam brings the Raptors up 109-107. The Wizards foul Schroder, who makes both free throws... Raptors win?? Raptors win!
After the game, Darko Rajakovic said that the team did a much better job in the second half than the first. He also said that he told the players at half, “I don’t expect you to go out and win the game, but I expect you to go out and play with joy — they seemed to respond.”
He also mentioned that he doesn’t want this (this being having to comeback from 20+ deficit) to be normal, but he was proud of the team for showing their character in this situation.
He also shared that the ceremonial post-game chain was given to Chris Boucher tonight. He told the media he had his “John Cena moment” with it.
Boucher ended the game with seven points, two assists, six rebounds, three blocks and was +14. Pascal Siakam finished with 39 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, and three steals.
Kyle Kuzma also did what he could to try and get the win for the Wizards. He scored 33 points, three assists and three rebounds.
Overall, it was a weird, rollercoaster of a win for the Raptors, but a win is a win.