You knew coming into this one that if the Raptors were going to get one game on their grueling five-game road trip, it would likely be the opener in Washington.
Unfortunately for the Raptors, just like Friday night, their compete level and passion were nowhere near high enough to beat an NBA team. Yes, even if that team is the Wizards or Pistons.
The Raps came out with good jump in the first quarter. The effort was there on both ends of the floor and they seemed to be playing with a much-needed sense of urgency. Fueled by the aggressive play of Jose Calderon, Toronto held a 25-19 advantage over Washington after one.
Then came the second quarter, and the beginning of the end for the Raptors.
Their offence became increasingly stagnant as the quarter wore on, and by the end of the half, the Raptors were settling for long jump-shots with plenty of time remaining on the shot-clock. That inefficient offence, coupled with the Wizards shooting 13-of-25 in the second quarter, had the Raps down five at the break.
The third quarter was the Nick Young show, as the youngster scored 18 of his game-high 29 points in the third frame. Driving layups, off-balance jumpers, long threes; they were all falling for Young, and the Raptors simply had no answer.
Toronto was almost able to carry some heavy momentum into the fourth quarter, as newly signed Sundiata Gaines stole the ball and appeared to beat the third quarter buzzer with a three-pointer. However, it was later determined that Gaines did not release the ball in time, and the Raptors found themselves down eight instead of five.
Andrea Bargnani, who struggled to 3-of-13 shooting early on, seemed poised to take over the ball game in the fourth. Bargnani had lifted the Raptors back into a tie game midway through the fourth, having scored 10 points in the quarter. Then, for reasons we will never understand, it took four possessions for the Raps to go back to Il Mago. In fact, after Bargnani’s fourth quarter hot streak, he got the ball just once in the next five possessions, despite noticeably calling for it on every play.
With Andrea taken out of the equation by his own team, the Wizards began to pull away again, and the Raptors never fully recovered.
It wasn’t just a failure to get Bargnani the ball that doomed the Raptors in the fourth, though. They continued their pattern of poor play-calling out of late timeouts and also continued their recent trend of poor rebounding. For a team that had been vastly improved on the glass this year, the Raptors have reverted back to their old ways over the last few games. More than just being out-muscled for rebounds, it’s Toronto’s inability to hold onto the ball after a rebound that sticks out.
I lost count of how many times over the last few games that a Raptors player has come down with a rebound, only to fumble or bobble the ball into a turnover.
From an individual standpoint, there were some bright spots for the men in black. Jose Calderon enjoyed what may have been a career game, missing a triple-double by one rebound. As mentioned above, Bargnani recovered from a slow start to finish with 25 points. What I liked about Andrea tonight was that when his shot failed him in the first half, he still continued to rebound and defend. Though I guess when rebounding and playing defence becomes impressive from a seven-footer, therein lies the problem.
Ed Davis showed more promise in Saturday’s loss. The 21-year-old big man had a career high 15 points (on 7-of-11 shooting) to go along with eight boards and a block. Davis was pretty good against the Pistons on Friday night as well, so it doesn’t seem like back-to-backs are troubling the youngster right now.
Sundiata Gaines was pretty much as advertised. He kept things under control when on the floor and played within himself. It must be tempting for guys playing for a job to try to take over and go off, but Gaines showed why he is considered a pass-first, team-first point guard.
On a negative note, DeMar DeRozan had his worst game, by far, in over a month. He struggled to get anything going offensively, and wasn’t much better on the defensive end.
Now I know not a lot was expected of this young, inexperienced roster, and I am well aware that they were playing on the back end of a back-to-back and are struggling through a rash of injuries. But I still believe that the Raptors played below their potential on Saturday night, and played down to their opponents for the second night in a row. So it was quite surprising, and troubling, to hear Jay Triano say “I don’t know if I can ask for much more from our guys” in his post-game scrum.
It’s not like the Raps played way over their heads and lost a tough game. They failed to show up for a large portion of the game, and that’s the reason they are now a season-high 14 games under .500. Personally, I’d like Triano to be a little more demanding of his young players. Realistically, you can always ask for more as a coach, except in very rare circumstances.
The Raptors now limp into what is probably their toughest week of the season, so be prepared. This team is likely in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, barring a minor miracle.
Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 38 Min, 21 Pts, 10-16 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 9 Reb, 15 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk
Wizards Player of the Game: Nick Young – 41 Min, 29 Pts, 10-19 FG, 2-7 3Pt, 7-8 FT, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl
Goat of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 34 Min, 7 Pts, 3-11 FG, 1-2 FT, 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 TO