Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors

The Wizards have now won three straight and seven of their last nine after Monday’s win in Toronto. They came into this game fresh off wins over Denver and Houston so there was no reason for any Raptors player to be taking this team lightly. Unfortunately, Toronto’s best player had a very indifferent approach to this game and as a result…

Wizards 90, Raptors 84

-Rudy Gay had a nonchalant attitude in this game from the opening whistle. He wasn’t looking for his own shot, he only turned the corner on one screen in the entire first half (resulted in free throws), he threw very lazy passes and he didn’t look focused at all on defence. One play that really irritated me happened midway through the second quarter – Rudy turned over the ball and started jogging back towards his own basket. Amir Johnson was a good 5 feet behind Rudy when both turned to get back on defence. When Amir reached Toronto’s basket, Rudy was 10 feet behind him. Trevor Ariza (Rudy’s check) finished the play with a layup. Only turning it on for the 2nd half/4th quarter, is not a recipe for becoming a great NBA player. Rudy’s lone field goal – a dunk early in the fourth quarter – just served as a reminder of how easy the game CAN be for him.

-There are a number of things I like about the Amir-Jonas frontcourt but primarily I appreciate the fact that you know what you’re getting from them every night and every quarter. There are no questions about what kind of effort or intensity they are bringing. (Yes, this is an indirect shot at Rudy Gay).

-Andrea Bargnani responded to the boos from previous games the way you would want him to respond – he played with intensity at both ends of the floor. The fact that a first overall pick, who is in his 7th season needs to be commended for playing with intensity is a disgrace, but that’s the point we’ve reached with AB.

-Kyle Lowry is fighting himself – he’s looking for the right balance between scoring and passing. This a dilemma for every point guard but with the addition of Rudy Gay and changing roles, Lowry still hasn’t figured out when he needs to take over the offence. In my opinion, Lowry is the second most talented scorer on this team (behind Rudy) and therefore he shouldn’t be worried if he finishes a game with 12-15 shots.

-I feel bad for John Lucas because he’s shooting the lights out over the last month but that’s not what the second unit needs. They need a distributor who will help the other bench players find their rhythm. Other reserves aren’t getting consistent, quality shots when Lucas is out there. Perhaps the best way to solve this problem without benching Lucas, is to play JL3 and Telfair together (at the expense of Anderson’s minutes). There are still major questions about Lucas’ ability to defend, as AJ Price shot over him with ease all night.

-DeMar DeRozan was hands-down the best player on the floor for Toronto. I liked that he started the game by driving to the rim and looking for easy shots. Once he was in a rhythm, he started taking some more difficult fade-away shots.

-We talked about this on today’s podcast – Dwane Casey needs to tweak/re-design his offence. Tonight’s game made this brutally obvious. This system was built around Andrea Bargnani and he is no longer the focus for this team. They need to have multiple post-up plays for Rudy and DeMar and ideally there should be 3-4 picks set on every offensive possession. The offence that we saw tonight looked like 5 guys who just met each other at the YMCA.

-Toronto’s team defence was good but it could have been better. Blown defensive rotations on screen-and-rolls led to 3 of Washington’s 7 first quarter field goals. Transition defence was a bigger problem than Washington’s 17 fast break points would indicate.

Raptors player of the game: DeMar DeRozan – 25 Pts (9/17 FG, 7/9 FT), 4 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO in 39 mins

Wizards player of the game: Bradley Beal – 20 Pts (8/13 FG, 2/3 3PT FG, 2/2 FT), 6 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO in 39 mins

No time to hang their heads, as every game from here on out becomes more important for Toronto. Wednesday in Cleveland will be a stern test and I look forward to seeing how Rudy Gay responds.

Also, ICYMI – here’s Toronto’s version of the Harlem Shake. I would find this far more entertaining if they hadn’t just lost to the 18-37 Wizards.