The Toronto Raptors occasionally forget there are 48 minutes of play in a basketball game. Last night against the Washington Wizards, they play 40 excellent minutes, then collapsed offensively. A comfortable 20-point lead was down to 6 when Kyle Lowry hit two free throws, then two more. Despite the Raps not managing a field goal for the last 7:36 of the game, the Wiz were incapable of taking advantage, and Toronto escaped with a victory.
The Raps can beat any team on the planet when the guys move the ball, which results in open looks for everyone. That’s exactly what was happening, as all 9 rotation players hit the scoresheet in a solid first half. The only laggard was Kyle Lowry, who had lots of open looks, but could only hit 2 of 8. He wasn’t struggling with his passing, chalking up 7 assists. Amir Johnson was the beneficiary of several of those, and our beloved forward was able to convert several short hook shots. Washington’s chief Wizard, point guard John Wall, kept his team in the game with 19, draining mid-range jumpers without respite.
The second half was a different story entirely. Lowry attacked Washington’s big men repeatedly, scoring 14 points in Q3, on his way to a game-high 24. He was ably assisted by Greivis Vasquez, who played what I think was his best game as a Raptor. He was 6 of 8 from the floor, including both 3-balls he tried, and handed out 7 assists. Wall’s scoring dried up, as Raptor defensive pressure took its toll. None of the Wiz were given the room to set up their trademark shooting from distance, and they ended with only 4 threes. They were able to muscle inside, as Marcin Gortat and Nene both hit double figures. Many of their baskets were created by offensive rebounding, as the Raps were miserable all night on the boards, losing that battle 40-29. Jonas Valanciunas, despite shooting 5 of 7, spent much of the game on the bench, as Dwane Casey called on Tyler Hansbrough and others.
Patrick Patterson may have seized the starting power forward role for good with another dandy two-way game. He had 10 points before fouling out, 6 boards and 3 steals. What doesn’t hit the stat sheet is his consistent hustle on D. Once again he provided terrific perimeter ball pressure on the Wiz’s guards.
The Raps are in action tonight against the dogged Chicago Bulls.