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Led by VanVleet, Raptors take OT thriller in Washington, 116-109

Fred VanVleet missed a game-winner in regulation but hit two huge threes to seal the deal in overtime.

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

The Toronto Raptors overcame a fourth-quarter Washington Wizards rally by dominating the overtime period, coming away with the 116-109 win and a split in their two-game set with the Wizards.

Fred VanVleet, who missed a wide-open three at the end of regulation, nailed two huge triples from the corner in OT to widen Toronto’s lead and eventually take the game.

Gary Trent Jr. led all scorers, coming in off the bench to drop 26 points; his 17 points in the second half and overtime were massive as the teams traded scoring runs. With Pascal Siakam having a quiet 15 points on 10 shots, and O.G. Anunoby missing 9 of his 11 attempts, the Raptors needed every bit of scoring they could get.

Kristaps Porzingis led the Wizards with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Bradley Beal scored 21 (on 22 shots), and former Raptor Delon Wright was massive with 18 points, inducing four three pointers.

VanVleet was the story of the night. He scored 25 points, dropped 10 assists, and had two blocks, three steals and four boards. Oh, and not one single turnover.

Despite that big miss at the end of regulation, VanVleet ended up 6-of-11 from downtown.

But the heart of the story of VanVleet’s night was his one-on-one defense against Bradley Beal. VanVleet was sensational locking down Beal in the fourth quarter and OT; Beal kept trying to make things happen, and VanVleet turned him back every time. With Beal pounding the ball for 20 seconds, that left his teammates to stand around and try and bail him out.

Unfortunately for the Raptors, that’s exactly what happened with just under a minute to go in regulation. The Wizards had possession, trailing 105-102, and VanVleet went to work. He cut Beal off at every angle, eventually tapping the ball out of Beal’s hands with about four seconds on the shot clock. But Beal tapped it to a suddenly wide-open Delon Wright, who didn’t hesitate. His triple tied the score at 105 and ignited the crowd.

That gave the Raptors the ball with 29 seconds to go. Siakam and VanVleet ran a little two-man action, that left Siakam backing down Wright in the paint. When Kyle Kuzma helped off VanVleet, Siakam threw the perfect pass back his partner, who had a wide open look at the go-ahead three... but it fell well short, and Beal couldn’t convert as the time expired, sending the game to overtime.

Raptors went with their starting unit it OT, with the red hot Trent replacing Jakob Poeltl. Trent opened the scoring with a tough fadeaway over Porzingis. But Wright got it right back with even tougher drive to the rim, scoring over Barnes and Siakam.

Much as they did for most of the final six minutes of regulation, Raptors were excellent on D in OT, but couldn’t get anything going on offense. But after another stop, a semi-transition drive from Siakam led to Fred’s first corner three, one that gave the Raptors a 110-107 lead.

After two Kyle Kuzma free throws cut the lead to 1 with a minute to go, the Raptors finally had a beautiful sequence of ball movement, as it pinged from Trent to Scottie Barnes to VanVleet, wide open again in the corner... and again he hit. After Anunoby stymied a Porzingis drive, Siakam scored on an and-1 to seal the deal.

The Raptors came out looking like a team that missed its afternoon nap. Barnes bobbled an easy putback on the Raptors’ opening possession, and Pascal Siakam threw up an an airball layup on the next — and was so upset that he took a dumb foul in transition, too.

The Wizards, meanwhile, showed no such disarray, as Porzingis scored their first seven points on 3-for-3 shooting.

After another turnover, the Raptors finally got a stop and Siakam scored the other way — and that seemed to settle them down. Barnes scored on a turnaround, then a Poeltl steal lead to a Barnes-Siakam hookup at the rim. After a Beal miss, a Barnes dunk gave the Raptors the 8-7 lead.

Once again, the starters played well (despite the poor opening minutes), but that only left everyone wondering what the bench would do to kill any momentum. Early returns were worrisome: when Gary Trent came in, the Raptors were down 13-12, and when Precious Achiuwa came in a minute later they were down 18-12.

But the Raptors got three straight stops, and a Trent three and an Anunoby finish at the rim brought them back within 1, and forced Wes Unseld Jr. to call for time.

As the quarter wound down, the Wizards had the clock in their favour for the two-for-one situation. Although the Raptors scored on the “one” — a Boucher lay-in on a beauty of a no-look dish from FVV — the Wizards drained threes on both ends of the “two”, a mini a 6-2 run that gave them the 30-26 lead after 1.

Porzingis had a massive opening quarter, scorring 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He also proved an effective deterrent at the rim, as the Raptors shot just 7-for-16 in the paint.

On the other end, the Raptors were aggressive on the ball, which led to all of the pros and cons you’d expect. The Raptors forced 8 turnovers, and converted them into 16 points. But the overplaying on the perimeter led to too many open looks for the Wizards, and they shot 71% in the frame.

Nick Nurse rolled out a Scottie+bench unit to start the second quarter, with Barton, Boucher, Achiuwa, and Trent. It didn’t work well on Thursday, so it was a bit surprising to see it return—but this time, the results were different! Achiuwa opened the scoring, and Barton drained a triple and had a steal and a deflection on each of the Wizards’ next two possessions. Precious and Boucher then scored on consecutive possessions to give the Raptors the 35-33 lead.

Daniel Gafford played well in the early minutes of the second for Washington, using his size to bully the Poeltl-less Raptors; scored 7 points in the first four minutes of the frame, including a vicious dunk on Barnes. After a Trent three gave the Raptors the 38-37 lead, Thad Young replaced Precious Achiuwa, an odd choice given that Young as played poor the past two games — and that the Raptors seem deep enough now that Thad should essentially be the 10th man.

But all told, the Raptors’ bench did well; from the moment Trent came in to the time Anunoby and Siakam came in and joined Trent, Young and Barton, the Wizards only outscored the Raptors by one point. Thad even had a dunk!

The teams traded buckets — including back-to-back 9-0 runs — for the remaining five minutes, but one of them should make all the highlight reels. After VanVleet scored on a tough J, he threw a perfect transition alley-oop to Poeltl, who made a great catch and slammed it home through contact (unfortunately he missed the free throw). The teams went to halftime tied at 53.

It might have been the Raptors best bench quarter since before the All-Star break; Toronto’s reserves outscored Washington’s 22-8, with Trent draining three threes and Boucher flying all over the court, keeping multiple loose balls alive. It was also Barton’s best run as a Raptor; he only scored three points but was active and engaged on both ends.

FVV opened third with a triple, but Delon Wright hit two of his own the other way. The Raptors then went on an 8-0 run, punctuated by a wicked Barnes baseline dunk, giving them the 68-64 lead before Wright hit another three to stop the run. After a Barnes layup and a VanVleet three, the Raptors had their biggest lead 73-67.

Once again the Raptors’ bench was solid. Boucher had a wicked runout dunk off a dish from VanVleet, and then drained a three from the left wing to give the Raptors an 83-77 lead.

After two Anthony Gill free throws, Fred VanVlet took the ball across the timeline and stepped into a running three-point attempt that fell through as the buzzer sounded, giving the Raptors their largest lead, 86-79, heading into the fourth.

It was fun to see the former members of the 2017-18 Raptors “bench mob” all have their moments in the frame. This is the first time Wright, VanVleet, POeltl and Siakam have all played in the same game since 2019 (when Poeltl was on the Spurs, and before Wright was traded in the Marc Gasol deal)!

The Wizards opened the final frame with a 5-0 run, but that’s when Gary Trent Jr. caught fire. He scored a short J, which Barnes followed up with wicked two-handed dunk. A Boucher steal led to another Trent J, to give the Raptors an 8-point lead. After another stop, Trent drained a triple from the left wing, his fourth of the night, putting Toronto up by 11; he then broke up a play on the other end, and scored in transition. Beal finally broke the run with J, but the Wizards turned it over on their next two possessions.

Those were two of the team’s 24 turnovers; the Raptors turned those into 34 points, and ended up with 15 more shot attempts.

It looked like it might not hurt them, though, aa Kispert drained another triple and Kuzma scored on a drive, cutting the Raptors’ lead to six, 97-91. A Kuzma three then cut it in half, and the teams proceeded to trade buckets until Beal’s late tapout to Wright tied it at 105.

The Raptors now sit two full games ahead of the Wizards in the win column for ninth place. The two teams will meet again to decide the season series on March 26.