Archive for the ‘Washington Wizards’ Category

Game No. 10: Wizards 93, Raptors 78

Realistic Raptors fans knew there would be games like this. Naturally, the ugliest game of the Raptors’ season so far took place when I had to fill in for Joseph Casciaro to write the recap. Let’s just get through this and then never speak of this atrocity again.

This game was pretty much what I expected: two bad basketball teams playing sloppy basketball. I’m not shocked that the Raptors lost to the only remaining winless team since I predicted it in the game thread. The Raptors are going to have more downs than ups this season, and we just need to look for pearls of encouragement and entertainment to sustain us through another losing season.

1. I think the refs were so disgusted by the quality of this game that they could barely be bothered to¬† blow the whistle at either end unless somebody drew blood. I think they just wanted to end this ugly display as quickly as possible and I can’t say I blame them.

2. DeMar DeRozan is struggling badly on offense right now, although he did save some face with a decent second-half performance. We’re really going to get a sense of his mental makeup based on how he works through this. To his credit, he’s still working hard on defense and diving for loose balls.

3. Rasual Butler continuing to start for the Raptors is an unfunny joke. It’s getting to the point where I wouldn’t blame David Stern if he fined the Raptors for blatant tanking. No team that is legitimately trying to win games can justify starting Butler and playing him 20 minutes per game.

4. Jan Vesely is fun to watch since he’s not on a team I’m rooting for. I feel like he’ll be good for some enjoyable highlights and little else his rookie season.

5. Jack Armstong’s distaste for Andray Blatche was my favorite part of watching this game on TV. Jack has every right to be disgusted by Blatche. He’s a horrible combination of wasted talent, selfishness and stupidity. You know how you can get frozen concentrated orange juice in a can? Well, Andray Blatche is like Drew Gooden, concentrated. I look forward to Blatche playing for seven or eight different teams and making about $50 million in his NBA career before he runs out of GMs dumb enough to employ him.

6. Serious question: You can have your choice between John Wall and Ricky Rubio. Who would you take? I can’t give a definitive answer to this question right now, and I would never have imagined this would be a dilemma EVER, much less this early in Rubio’s NBA career. For all the upside Wall has, his decision-making seems to have declined from his rookie season.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani — 29 MP, 22 Pts, 9-16 FG, 4-4 FT, 2 Reb, 2 Ast

Wizards Player of the Game: Rashard Lewis — 27 MP, 15 Pts, 6-10 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 2-3 FT, 1 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Rasual Butler, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
Washington: John Wall, Nick Young, Chris Singleton, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee

Injury report

Toronto: Jerryd Bayless and Linas Kleiza are day-to-day.

Washington: Rashard Lewis is questionable for tonight, while Ronny Turiaf and Maurice Evans are out.

The Wizards are the only remaining winless team going into tonight, but by no means do I believe they’re the worst team in the NBA. They have too much talent, which just happens to be performing poorly so far. As a matter of fact, the Wizards are actually favored by 2.5 points going into this game, and I fully expect this to be the night they get off the schneid.

It’s hard to figure out why a team with John Wall, JaVale McGee and Nick Young hasn’t been able to win a game, but a lot of the blame inevitably gets placed on the shoulders of Wizards coach Flip Saunders. He’s probably not going to last the season, but he may view his dismissal as a sweet relief…

I’m going to wrap this up because Joseph Casciaro can’t write tonight’s recap so I’m going to give it a shot before beddy-time. My recap will probably be one-third the length of his. That guy sure likes his words, doesn’t he?

For your pregame laugh, here’s Brian Regan with a funny bit about dealing with UPS:

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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

Javale McGee

Well, here’s a game the Raptors might win. The Wizards have a craptacular 1-30 record on the road this season, and that singular win came against — you guessed it — the Cavaliers. What’s puzzling about the Wizards’ road record is that they’re 15-20 at home this season, so it’s not like they’re the worst team in NBA history. Even the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers that went 9-73 won two of those games on the road. The last-place Cavaliers have only won 13 games but five of those were away games.

The Wizards are a perfect example of a team where the sum is much lesser than its parts. Individually, John Wall, Nick Young, Andray Blatche and Javale McGee should theoretically be useful players. In combination, they’re terrible defenders, highly inefficient on offense, and have the fourth-worst rebounding differential in the league.

These teams split their previous two meetings, with each team winning the matchup on its home court. Fans who want the Raptors to keep losing in order to improve their draft lottery position might want to skip this game altogether — although if Andrea Bargnani ends up playing 40-plus minutes and jacking up over 30 field goal attempts, I might start to suspect that something is up.

Injury report

Toronto: Amir Johnson is questionable (50/50) for tonight as he continues to heal his sprained ankle.

Washington: Josh Howard, Nick Young and Cartier Martin are questionable, Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis are doubtful.

Five questions

1. Did you know that the Wizards won’t finish with the biggest home-road record discrepancy in NBA history? That honor goes to the 1990-91 Sacramento Kings who finished with a 24-17 record at home and 1-40 record on the road.

2. Did you know that Javale McGee’s triple-double of 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks in a 19-point loss on Tuesday wasn’t the most meaningless triple-double featuring 10-plus blocks since the Raptors have existed? On April 19, 1998, Marcus Camby finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks for the Raptors in a 29-point loss to the 76ers.

3. Between Andrea Bargnani and Yi Jianlian, who deserves the title of “softest seven-footer in the NBA?”

4. Considering the overall basketball IQ of the team, is “Wizards” the most ironic team nickname in the NBA? And did I actually manage to use the word “ironic” correctly? I’m legitimately frightened of that word since Alanis Morrissette ruined it for everyone.

5. Is it wrong for me to be a little embarrassed of the fact that my dad is rooting for Duke over Texas in the NCAA tournament?

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Ed Davis, Andrea Bargnani
Washington: John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Trevor Booker, Yi Jianlian, Javale McGee

Your pregame music for tonight is “Prescription” by Washington rapper Wale, featuring John DeBroeck on drums. Have a chill weekend, y’all.

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No amount of black jerseys could contain Nick Young on this night

You knew coming into this one that if the Raptors were going to get one game on their grueling five-game road trip, it would likely be the opener in Washington.

Unfortunately for the Raptors, just like Friday night, their compete level and passion were nowhere near high enough to beat an NBA team. Yes, even if that team is the Wizards or Pistons.

The Raps came out with good jump in the first quarter. The effort was there on both ends of the floor and they seemed to be playing with a much-needed sense of urgency. Fueled by the aggressive play of Jose Calderon, Toronto held a 25-19 advantage over Washington after one.

Then came the second quarter, and the beginning of the end for the Raptors.

Their offence became increasingly stagnant as the quarter wore on, and by the end of the half, the Raptors were settling for long jump-shots with plenty of time remaining on the shot-clock. That inefficient offence, coupled with the Wizards shooting 13-of-25 in the second quarter, had the Raps down five at the break.

The third quarter was the Nick Young show, as the youngster scored 18 of his game-high 29 points in the third frame. Driving layups, off-balance jumpers, long threes; they were all falling for Young, and the Raptors simply had no answer.

Toronto was almost able to carry some heavy momentum into the fourth quarter, as newly signed Sundiata Gaines stole the ball and appeared to beat the third quarter buzzer with a three-pointer. However, it was later determined that Gaines did not release the ball in time, and the Raptors found themselves down eight instead of five.

Andrea Bargnani, who struggled to 3-of-13 shooting early on, seemed poised to take over the ball game in the fourth. Bargnani had lifted the Raptors back into a tie game midway through the fourth, having scored 10 points in the quarter. Then, for reasons we will never understand, it took four possessions for the Raps to go back to Il Mago. In fact, after Bargnani’s fourth quarter hot streak, he got the ball just once in the next five possessions, despite noticeably calling for it on every play.

With Andrea taken out of the equation by his own team, the Wizards began to pull away again, and the Raptors never fully recovered.

It wasn’t just a failure to get Bargnani the ball that doomed the Raptors in the fourth, though. They continued their pattern of poor play-calling out of late timeouts and also continued their recent trend of poor rebounding. For a team that had been vastly improved on the glass this year, the Raptors have reverted back to their old ways over the last few games. More than just being out-muscled for rebounds, it’s Toronto’s inability to hold onto the ball after a rebound that sticks out.

I lost count of how many times over the last few games that a Raptors player has come down with a rebound, only to fumble or bobble the ball into a turnover.

From an individual standpoint, there were some bright spots for the men in black. Jose Calderon enjoyed what may have been a career game, missing a triple-double by one rebound. As mentioned above, Bargnani recovered from a slow start to finish with 25 points. What I liked about Andrea tonight was that when his shot failed him in the first half, he still continued to rebound and defend. Though I guess when rebounding and playing defence becomes impressive from a seven-footer, therein lies the problem.

Ed Davis showed more promise in Saturday’s loss. The 21-year-old big man had a career high 15 points (on 7-of-11 shooting) to go along with eight boards and a block. Davis was pretty good against the Pistons on Friday night as well, so it doesn’t seem like back-to-backs are troubling the youngster right now.

Sundiata Gaines was pretty much as advertised. He kept things under control when on the floor and played within himself. It must be tempting for guys playing for a job to try to take over and go off, but Gaines showed why he is considered a pass-first, team-first point guard.

On a negative note, DeMar DeRozan had his worst game, by far, in over a month. He struggled to get anything going offensively, and wasn’t much better on the defensive end.

Now I know not a lot was expected of this young, inexperienced roster, and I am well aware that they were playing on the back end of a back-to-back and are struggling through a rash of injuries. But I still believe that the Raptors played below their potential on Saturday night, and played down to their opponents for the second night in a row. So it was quite surprising, and troubling, to hear Jay Triano say “I don’t know if I can ask for much more from our guys” in his post-game scrum.

It’s not like the Raps played way over their heads and lost a tough game. They failed to show up for a large portion of the game, and that’s the reason they are now a season-high 14 games under .500. Personally, I’d like Triano to be a little more demanding of his young players. Realistically, you can always ask for more as a coach, except in very rare circumstances.

The Raptors now limp into what is probably their toughest week of the season, so be prepared. This team is likely in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, barring a minor miracle.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 38 Min, 21 Pts, 10-16 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 9 Reb, 15 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Wizards Player of the Game: Nick Young – 41 Min, 29 Pts, 10-19 FG, 2-7 3Pt, 7-8 FT, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl

Goat of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 34 Min, 7 Pts, 3-11 FG, 1-2 FT, 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 TO