After a career-best 5 blocked shots on Monday, Jonas Valanciunas came back with a career-best 24 points on Wednesday, while leading Toronto past Washington.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
-Player development is a poor substitute for playoff basketball, but that’s pretty much all Raptors fans have left to cheer for. On Wednesday night, Jonas Valanciunas gave reason for much optimism. He handled Emeka Okafor, Kevin Seraphin and Nene with ease and physically dominated the entire Wizards team. The wide array of offensive moves from JV already has me excited about what type of season he can have after an offseason to get stronger. His seven-foot frame looks like it could handle at least 20 more pounds of muscle.
-The variety in Valanciunas’ offence and his aggressive style led to a career-high 24 points, keyed by 16-of-18 free throws. He worked with his back to the basket, facing up off the dribble, off the pick-and-roll and was effective shooting his mid-range. He also put in good work on the defensive glass (10 rebounds), leading directly to 6 free throws. The most important aspect of Jonas’ job was also on display against the Wizards – protecting the paint. He was only credited with two blocks, but he had a big hand in holding Washington to 32.5% from the field.
-I really think JV is onto something when he says “I was not talking to the officials, not complaining about calls, maybe that helped me.” There is at least one Raptor that should really pay heed to these words.
-After a tremendous game against Detroit, Rudy Gay appeared to be battling injuries. I would suspect his back was bothering him because Gay appeared very stiff, couldn’t beat anyone off the dribble and had trouble getting down in his defensive stance. It’s admirable that he continues to play through his injuries, but I wouldn’t be opposed to him being shut down for the season. Rudy really struggled to score (2-8 FG, 2-4 FT) but he still hit the glass for 8 rebounds and picked up a couple steals. After the game, Dwane Casey said Gay was limited to 24 minutes due to a twisted ankle.
-Kyle Lowry continues to play an extremely unselfish brand of basketball – almost to a fault (2-8 FG, 13 Ast, 2 TO). He seems to believe that he must take a Rajon Rondo-esque number of shots for his team to find their offensive rhythm – and part of me agrees with him. Kyle can score relatively easily for a point guard but he can do so many other things that he may be best served in a Kidd or Rondo type role.
-The Wizards were unable to guard DeMar DeRozan. John Wall couldn’t handle DeMar in the post, Ariza couldn’t stay with him around screens and Garrett Temple didn’t stand a chance in general. DD finished with a game-high 25 points on 11-21 shooting, including two jumpers that iced the game with about 3 minutes left in the fourth. He didn’t contribute much apart from his scoring (1 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl & 1 Blk) – a typical criticism for DeRozan. However, it’s worth noting that he is averaging career-highs this season in rebounds and assists per game.
-Quincy Acy came into the game, immediately picked up two fouls, blew a defensive rotation which left Cartier Martin wide open for three, failed to close out on AJ Price on a 2-on-4 fastbreak resulting in a three and then left Martin open for one more trey bomb. I like that Dwane Casey kept Acy in the game after these correctable mistakes. Quincy could be a valuable member of the bench next season, so it’s absolutely worth letting him play through his mistakes (as we’ve discussed with JV and Ross). Acy showed a little touch with a bank shot in the post and a 20-foot jump shot in the first half.
-Speaking of potentially useful bench pieces, Landry Fields got the nod late in the fourth quarter as Toronto sealed the victory. He picked up 3 rebounds in 17 minutes and as many people have noted, the ball moves faster when Landry is on the court.
Raptors player of the game: Jonas Valanciunas – 24 Pts, 4/7 FG, 16/18 FT, 10 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl 2 Blk, 3 TO in 41 mins
Wizards player of the game: Emeka Okafor – 17 Pts, 8/16 FG, 1/2 FT, 8 reb, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 3 TO in 34 mins