Wearing their green jerseys a day late, the Raptors welcomed the league’s worst road team to the Air Canada Centre for a meeting that could have ramifications on the May draft lottery. If that doesn’t get you psyched to watch basketball, I don’t know what can.
The Raptors came out with a lot more energy than they had on Wednesday night in Detroit and attacked the Wizards early on. With the two Johnsons, Amir and James, providing an early spark, the Raps were able to build a respectable six-point lead after one quarter. That first quarter was very much the Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan show vs. the Trevor Booker and Jordan Crawford show, with those four players accounting for more than half of the first quarter offence.
The wheels appeared to be falling off for the Raptors early in the second quarter, as a slew of turnovers and all around sloppy play from the Toronto bench helped ignite a 14-0 Wizards run. But Washington’s lead was short-lived, as a Jay Triano timeout halted the Wizards run and seemed to calm his troops.
Toronto came out of that timeout playing zone defence, and it worked wonders in that second quarter, as the Raptors responded with a 9-0 run of their own that eventually ballooned to an impressive 18-2 run. The Raps held a nine-point lead at halftime after hanging 62 points on the Wizards in 24 minutes.
The scoring and pace of the game settled down considerably in the third quarter, and it was thanks in large part to the refs putting away their whistles. After the teams combined for a ridiculous 46 free throw attempts in the first half, it took over 11 minutes for any free throws to be attempted in the third quarter, as Reggie Evans took the only two free throws of the quarter.
The Raptors kept a comfortable lead throughout the third, with Bargnani carrying the load, scoring 11 of his 33 points in the third frame.
Toronto took a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter, and looked to be well on their way to win no. 19 on the season. But if you should know one thing about these Raptors, it’s that they will always find a way to make things interesting, good or bad.
With their offence going ice-cold on 3-of-17 shooting in the quarter, the Raptors allowed the Wizards to jump out to a 17-5 run to cut a 93-79 lead to 98-96 with just a few minutes remaining. But a series of big buckets from Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan, and even a surprising string of productive trips to the free throw line from Reggie Evans, helped the Raptors seal the victory.
There were plenty of positives on the night for the Raptors. They shot the ball well, shared the ball and played an overall team game to get a rare W. But nothing sticks out like the combined performance of Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan. The pair combined for 63 points and both played at least 37 minutes in the victory. What really makes their performance incredible was how efficient they were en route to those 63 points.
Bargnani and DeRozan needed only 30 shots between them to get to the 63-point mark (they were 19-of-30), while getting to the free throw line 27 times. Bargnani, especially, made his impact at the charity stripe, as he had already set a new career high with 14 free throw attempts in the first half, and finished with 18.
The other thing I wanted to mention tonight was the crowd at the ACC. I know it’s a Friday night, but anytime you get over 18 000 fans (including Samuel L. Jackson and “Hurricane” Hazel McCallion) out to see a pair of teams with a combined 34-99 record, it’s impressive. After a slow start for the attendance figures this season, the numbers have picked up over the last little while, and I’ve noticed that even on some emptier nights with crappy teams in town, the crowd has been more energetic.
I don’t know if it’s the young team that has people excited or the promise of reduced ticket prices next year, but there seems to be a sense of optimism for this team around the building. We’ll have to see if it’s warranted or not.
Lastly, the other night I mentioned that the Raptors’ road record of 5-27 was simply atrocious. Well with Friday’s loss, the Wizards road record now sits at 1-31. Forget about atrocious, there are no words I can think of to quantify that.
Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani - 41 Min, 33 Pts, 8-15 FG, 2-2 3Pt, 15-18 FT, 3 Reb, 5 Ast
Wizards Player of the Game: Trevor Booker – 36 Min, 26 Pts, 12-15 FG, 2-2 FT, 13 Reb, 3 Ast. 2 Stl, 1 Blk
Goat of the Game: Yi Jianlian – 33 Min, 9 Pts, 4-10 FG, 1-3 FT, 4 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 TO