Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards

It was an ugly ball game and the Raptors beat a team that’s more than 20 games under .500, but the Wizards had been playing very well of late and the victory makes it five straight for the Raps while giving Toronto its first three-game road winning streak since 2007 and its first win in Washington since 2009.

Here are some thoughts on the game…

Raptors 96, Wizards 88

- Rudy Gay rode a streaky night of shooting (made one, missed six, made five, then went 1-of-7, finished 3-of-6) and the pair combined for nine turnovers compared to only four assists, but the combo of Gay and DeRozan also combined for 48 points, 11 rebounds and six steals.

While Gay struggled through long stretches of this game (though it was nice to see him knocking down threes), DeRozan had what I thought was one of his better games this season. DeMar shot 50 per cent from the floor (9/18), attacked the basket, got to the free throw line, defended as intensely as I’ve seen him do this year and showed off an improved handle. Yes, he turned the ball over four times, but the ball handling DeRozan used to create for himself before hitting shots at the end of the first quarter and at the end of the second quarter was encouraging. He’ll have to be even better on Wednesday night against Tony Allen and the Grizzlies.

- Please, please tell me you have heard about the showdown between Matt Devlin and rapper Wale that took place during this game. As commenter PBI wrote, it “was probably one of the greatest moments in Raptor broadcast history.”

- Speaking of things I hope you’ve seen, how about Jonas Valanciunas taking Nene to school in the game’s opening minutes? Valanciunas really made his presence known and felt in the paint early in this game, finishing with seven points, eight rebounds, an assist and a block in just 20:43 of action.

- Valanciunas didn’t see the floor in the fourth quarter, but Andrea Bargnani did and actually hit a couple of big shots for the Raptors just as the Wizards were starting to make things closer than they should have been. As I’ve pointed out in games before, there were still plenty of times the Raptors lost a chance at a loose ball and a possession because Bargnani either didn’t want to get on the floor or move more than a few inches (anyone else catch Lowry’s air-punching frustrated reaction when Bargnani fumbled one of Kyle’s passes in the fourth?), but with the win in hand, fans don’t have any reason to blame Bargnani for costing the Raptors the game despite playing over 25 minutes. It’s pathetic that it has come to this, but that’s a minor victory in itself. Now the question is will Wednesday night’s game at the Air Canada Centre be Andrea’s last game as a Raptor?

- Kyle Lowry didn’t have many highlight reel worthy plays in this game and did turn the ball over four times, but he also quietly went about putting together a double-double for the Raptors at the point. Lowry finished with 11 points on only six field goal attempts to go with 10 assists, six rebounds and a steal, with his 10 dimes accounting for 50 per cent of the team’s assist total in the game. John Lucas III continued to shoot the ball well tonight and gave the the Raps 16 more solid minutes off of the bench to allow some extra rest for Lowry, but I still think the Raptors should be looking for a backup point guard at the trade deadline. Lucas won’t be able to sustain this level of efficiency for the remainder of the season, and the second unit is still lacking a true distributor.

- Gay appeared to hurt his right arm in the first half before shaking it off and staying in the game, then came up lame at one point with an apparent hamstring injury in the fourth quarter before quickly returning to the floor and finishing the game. Rudy looked fine down the stretch, but he’s logged a ton of minutes since joining the Raptors (Gay’s logged at least 37 minutes in six of eight games with Toronto and has logged 40+ minutes in five of those games), so here’s hoping that the leg issue, especially, was nothing that could bother him again later on.

- How odd is it that a team that’s still 10 games under .500 after 54 games has two five-game winning streaks under its’ belt? In addition to extending their winning streak to five and their road winning streak to three, the Raptors also improved to 6-2 with Gay in the lineup. While I’m trying to keep my word of not talking about the playoffs until the Raps legitimately get back in the race, yes, I am aware that Joe Johnson’s heroics against the Bucks tonight means Toronto has closed the gap between them and Milwaukee to five games.

Raptors Player Of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 24 Pts, 9/18 FG, 6/7 FT, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl, 4 TO in 36:38

Wizards Player Of the Game: Bradley Beal – 25 Pts, 9/19 FG, 3/6 3PT, 4/6 FT, 4 Reb, 1 Ast in 33:01

How big will tomorrow night’s game against the Grizzlies be? Rudy Gay should be as fired up as he’s ever been, Ed Davis will mark his return to Toronto, the Grizzlies (specifically Tony Allen) will come out looking to make an emphatic statement and the Raptors will be looking to win a sixth straight game for the first time in four years.

Can’t wait…