Archive for the ‘Washington Wizards’ Category

Start time: 6:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray
Washington: John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin

Injury report

Toronto: Jerryd Bayless is out for the season.

Washington: Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatche, Nene and Trevor Booker are all out.

See Washington’s injury list? See their probably starting lineup? That’s why the Raptors won’t be able to “out-tank” them for the rest of the season. The Raptors are four-and-a-half games up on the Wizards right now and I’m confident that the Wizards won’t win five more games this season.

I’m also confident the Raptors will win tonight. They’ve won the last four times the Wizards visited the Air Canada Centre, and their lineup wasn’t this depleted in those previous games. The absence of Nene is a huge factor, since he’s averaged over 20 points per game against the Raptors since the 2008-09 season.

**********

If you missed yesterday’s Louisville-Kentucky game and you’re wondering about the hype surrounding Anthony Davis, these two videos might clue you in. The Wizards have their eyes on the prize, and Davis is it.

Game No. 26: Wizards 111, Raptors 108 (OT)

Between a putrid first half effort from the Raptors and a very Wizards-like performance in the second half, some very quiet fans in Washington were treated to quite the finish in this ball game. I refuse to call it good basketball just because it was a close overtime finish, but I will say, it was exciting.

If you’re a Raptors fan, you had to see this coming. A bad young team playing another bad young team the day after an admirable effort against the Heat and three days after beating the very team they are playing is the perfect recipe for a “trap game” or let down game.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- I’ll keep referencing it as long as it continues to happen, or not happen in the case of the Raptors. That’s now 14 straight games without winning a first quarter for the Raps, who have trailed by eight points or more after 10 of those 14 first quarters. Tonight was definitely one of the uglier opening frames during this ugly stretch. The Raptors shot just 29 per cent to the Wizards’ 65 per cent, they had five shots blocked and their best player through 12 minutes was Aaron Gray. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the makings of an NBA disaster.

2- Speaking of Aaron Gray, while I joke (not really) that it’s a pathetic indication when he plays like the team’s best player, he does deserve credit for the workmanlike attitude he displays on the court. He sticks to his role and does his job, and that’s a hard attribute to find in today’s world of professional sports. Gray moves the ball when it’s in his hands, attempts a shot only when it is a clearly efficient attempt and boxes out perfectly when trying to grab a rebound. He contributed four points, four rebounds and an assist in the game’s first seven minutes. I’m fine with Dwane Casey giving Gray starts if he can continue to open games the way he has been recently.

3- Linas Kleiza came through with one of the best individual performances we’ll see from any Raptor this season. 30 points on just 16 shots, five rebounds, an assist, a couple of steals and an unbelievable bank-shot to tie the game. I was one of many Raptors fans who was disappointed with Kleiza’s play last season, and was skeptical that he could pick his game up after microfracture surgery. I am very pleased to admit that I was wrong. In general, he’s been surprisingly good since his return from surgery, but over the last four days, Kleiza has been absolutely lights out, scoring 62 points in just 77 minutes played over his last three games. Even better, he’s done it on nearly 60 per cent shooting.

4- A changing of the guard? For the second straight game, Jerryd Bayless nearly helped carry the Raptors to an improbable win while Jose Calderon watched. In a span of about 35 hours, Calderon committed eight turnovers compared to just seven assists, while Bayless scored 47 points and recorded six assists to just two turnovers. Decisions shouldn’t be made based on a two-game sample, but if Bayless can start stringing some good performances together, he will make it a lot easier to imagine a short-term future without Jose Calderon and make it easier to part with Leandro Barbosa via trade.

5- A few words on the Wizards. I know John Wall makes some careless decisions on the floor and doesn’t shoot the ball well, but he has the quickness and skill to be a star point guard in the NBA. The other thing I like about Wall is that he actually seems to care about winning, which is a lot more than you can say about a guy like Javale McGee, who seems to be more concerned with his own highlight reel than he is with the result of the ball game (saluting and celebrating dunks in games where his team is down 20 is a clear indication of this). What the Wizards need to do is find a way to get John Wall away from the “Dumb and Dumber” cast that is the rest of the Wizards’ roster, then get him a real NBA coach. With a young core of Wall, a top-five pick in 2012 and Jan Vesely, the Wizards could be a team on the rise, where as I doubt the Wiz  can go anywhere with guys like Andray Blatche and Nick Young.

6- If you watched this game, you know that Jamaal Magloire’s fumbled rebound after a missed Wizards free throw was a major contributing factor to the end result. You can now make the argument that between his airballed free throws against the Pacers last month and his butter fingers on Monday night, Jamaal has had a hand in giving the Raptors two extra losses so far this season. Add those losses to the point Scott made about Magloire in his game thread, and I’d have to assume that “Tank Nation” is loving this acquisition right now.

It’s hard to believe, but this was actually the Raptors’ last road game for 22 days. After playing 17 of their first 26 games away from the Air Canada Centre, the Raps will begin a seven-game home-stand on Wednesday that will see them play the Bucks, Celtics, Lakers, Knicks, Spurs, Bobcats and Pistons. In fact, Toronto’s next road game will come after the All Star break. I’ll be interested to see how this team handles three weeks at home.

***

Raptors Player of the Game: Linas Kleiza – 35 Min, 30 Pts, 11-16 FG, 4-8 3PT, 4-8 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 TO

Wizards Player of the Game: John Wall – 44 Min, 31 Pts, 10-19 FG, 0-1 3PT, 11-14 FT, 5 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Stl, 4 TO

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Aaron Gray
Washington: John Wall, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, Trevor Booker, JaVale McGee

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani is still out.

Washington: Andray Blatche and Ronny Turiaf are out until later this month.

When the Raptors and Wizards play tonight, it will be the third time they’ve met in 27 days. That is a lot of terrible basketball crammed into a short time period. They’ve split the season series so far, but I have to like the Raptors’ chances in this rematch since they’re coming off a moral victory in Miami and the Wizards are in the midst of a four-game losing skid.

We can all agree that the Wizards are a horribad team, but the Raptors might have the worst rotation player on any NBA roster in Jamaal Magloire. If you’re not familiar with Player Efficiency Rating (PER), it’s a complicated stat that measures per-minute production — a 25.0 PER is great, a 20.0 PER is good, a 15.0 PER is average, a 10.0 PER is bad, and a 5.0 PER is extremely poor and indicative of a player who probably shouldn’t be in the NBA. Only one player this season has played over 200 minutes and has a negative PER, and that’s Jamaal Magloire with his -0.5 PER in 208 minutes.

Are the Raptors really trying to tank this season? If Magloire keeps seeing floor-time, you tell me.

Random thoughts:

  • Word on the tweet is that Joel Przybilla could sign with either the Bulls or the Heat shortly. Did the Raptors even take a shot at signing him? I’ve always been a big fan of the Vanilla Gorilla.
  • I don’t know if this Bridgestone ad is actually “funny”, but it features Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, and a sleeping baby, so… there’s that.

Game No. 24: Raptors 106, Wizards 89

I was very intrigued to see how the Raptors would come out to start this ball game. They had their butts handed to them on back-to-back nights by two greatly superior teams in the Hawks and Celtics, and then had to endure a day of practice on Thursday instead of the customary day off after a back-to-back.

The Raps responded and showed some passion out of the gates against the Wizards. While Toronto still hasn’t won a first quarter in 13 games, they did finish the first half up 10 thanks to some assertive and aggressive offence to go with the return of their solid defence.

Washington cut the lead to just one point midway through the third quarter, but again, Toronto responded with a spirited run to get their first home win in 25 days.

Now here are my thoughts on the game:

1- Welcome back, Amir. Amir Johnson bounced back from an ugly stretch (less than three points and rebounds per game over last nine games) with one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from him. 18 points in efficient fashion to go along with 13 rebounds, three blocks and a couple of assists. Johnson seemed to have that spring in his step again, and it was a most welcomed sight for Raptors fans. A lot of readers and commenters took my Thursday post on Amir as a suggestion that he should be amnestied. My intention was to simply point out that if he didn’t step his game up this season, his contract is as legitimate an amnesty candidate as any other on this roster, in my opinion. As I’ve often pointed out with Amir, performances like what we saw against the Wizards on Friday can be the norm for him if he stays focused and out of foul trouble.

2- That was by far the most aggressive I’ve seen the Raptors play on the offensive end this season. The wasted shot clocks and ill-advised jumpers were replaced with smart movement off the ball and hard drives to the basket. The result, aside from cracking the 100-point barrier for just the second time in regulation this season and the first time at home, was a respectable 45 per cent shooting, an eye-popping 68 points in the paint and 28 free throw attempts. I realize the Raptors won’t be able to put those numbers up against many NBA teams, but if they attack the basket the way they did against the Wizards, they’ll be in a lot more ball games, even without Andrea Bargnani.

3- One negative the aggressive offence brought to light was how poorly the Raptors are shooting free throws the last couple of games. Their 19-of-28 (67.9%) performance from the charity stripe on Friday means the Raps are just 27-of-46 (58%) from the line over their last two games. The Raptors entered Boston as a top-10 team in terms of free throw percentage and are shooting 75 per cent for the season, so let’s hope these two games have been a simple blip on the radar rather than the beginning of a decline.

4- Speaking of blips on the radar, it appears as though DeMar DeRozan’s 27-point performance in New Jersey on Sunday was just that, a blip, rather than the beginning of a climb back to respectability. DeRozan scored just 11 points on four-of-12 shooting on Friday, though in DeMar’s defence, he was once again denied a chance at more free throws by some very questionable non-calls. In three games since his outburst against the Nets, DeRozan has just 28 points on 10-of-33 shooting in 88 minutes of action. During that time, he’s gone to the free throw line just 14 times. On Sunday, he scored 27 points in 41 minutes and went to the line a career-high 16 times. I know DeRozan’s struggles seem to be documented on repeat right now, but at this point, he’s leaving us no choice. DeMar has to get it going for more than one game every few weeks.

5- These two guys may never get into another Thoughts on the Game post, so I wanted to take some time to give Jamaal Magloire and Aaron Gray some love tonight. Aaron got the start in the middle for the Raptors and provided his usual stability on the boards and the defensive end. Magloire came in for a short stint to close out the first quarter and picked up right where Gray had left off, just playing good fundamental big man basketball. The result was that the two combined to grab 12 rebounds in 17 total minutes, with Magloire adding a couple of blocks. They may not have done anything pretty or memorable in their short time on the floor, but make no mistake, Aaron Gray and Jamaal Magloire helped set the tone for the Raptors early on in this game, and the rest of the team carried that same hustle the rest of the way. If these two guys can combine for anywhere from 10-20 minutes of solid play in the middle on any given night, they will be well worth the minimal investment.

6- That aforementioned tone that Gray and Magloire helped set to start the game translated into a truly memorable team performance on the glass for the Raptors. With 61 rebounds, Toronto set a new franchise record for rebounds in a regulation game. Nine different Raptors grabbed at least three rebounds and the Raps out-rebounded the Wizards by a ridiculous margin of 24.

***

It may have been against the lowly Wizards (4-19, 1-10 on the road), but entertaining home wins like this, where the fans get some free pizza, are crucial from time to time to keep everyone’s sanity in this rebuilding season. Even Tank Nation loyalists can’t be that disappointed tonight, since realistically, the Raptors don’t have a chance to finish below the Wizards in the standings unless injuries come into play.

Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson – 27 Min, 18 Pts, 8-13 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 13 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Blk (Jose Calderon’s performance of eight points, 17 assists and eight rebounds should get some consideration here too)

Wizards Player of the Game: Trevor Booker – 32 Min, 13 Pts, 6-11 FG, 1-2 FT, 7 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Blk (Nick Young and John Wall made too many careless decisions in this one to get the nod)

The Raptors are in Miami to take on the “Heatles” on Sunday afternoon, but stop by RaptorBlog on Saturday if you get a chance. I’ve got a fun post planned as part of Super Bowl weekend.

And of course, “like” our RaptorBlog facebook page to stay up to date on all Raptors-related news and new RaptorBlog posts.

John Wall

John Wall and an unidentified Washington Wizards teammate had Manchu Wok for lunch at the Metro Hall food court today. (Photo credit: @theScore)

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Ed Davis, Aaron Gray
Washington: John Wall, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, Jan Vesely, JaVale McGee

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani is expected to be out until at least early February, while Linas Kleiza is probable and Leandro Barbosa are questionable for tonight.

Washington: Andray Blatche and Ronny Turiaf are both out.

“Yay! A team we can actually beat!” say hopeful Raptors fans. Hold your horses, now. Who will be the most talented player on the Air Canada Centre floor tonight? John Wall, obviously. Who will be the second-most talented player? JaVale McGee, without question. Third most talented player? I’ve gotta say Nick Young. You get my point, I think.

The Wizards are a bad basketball team — that is not in dispute. But they have talented players and they can be dangerous when they actually play like a team — such as on January 18 when they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder. They only have three other wins this season — two of them were over the Bobcats and the fourth win was a 15-point triumph over the Raptors when Bargnani was playing.

There’s also the fact that the Raptors’ two previous losses were by an average margin of 29.5 points. They may or may not be the worst team in the NBA when Bargnani isn’t playing, but they most definitely enter into the discussion. This isn’t something I didn’t expect going into the season, so I’m not broken up over it. It certainly doesn’t make the games any easier to watch.

Random thoughts…

  • Fun fact I posted to Twitter earlier today: Andrea Bargnani is third in the league in FG% from 10-15 feet away from the basketball among players who have played at least 10 games and taken at least two field goal attempts per game from that range.
  • Speaking of Twitter, TheScore’s brilliant and charming Digital Analyst, Christine, pointed out to me this afternoon that @NBA was following me but I wasn’t following them back. I immediately rectified that horrible oversight, and I can’t explain how that happened. And yes, this is a gruesomely blatant humblebrag.
  • Believe it or not, theScore receives complaints like these ones all the time. OK, they’re technically email complaints, but still…