After weeks of stubbornly refusing to alter the starting lineup and coming up with some puzzling quotes on why exactly he is unwilling to do so, Toronto Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic finally made a change. It was Precious Achiuwa, Dennis Schroder, and Malachi Flynn paid the price for these moves.
Schroder was sent to the bench in favor of Gary Trent Jr, with Flynn getting bumped out of the rotation after Dennis' crash-landing on the second unit. Achiuwa was not in Rajakovic's nine-man rotation, as he only minutes came early in the second half following some Jakob Poeltl foul trouble. Jalen McDaniels appears to have jumped him.
The result was a painless 132-102 domination of the lowly Washington Wizards. OG Anunoby led all scorers with 26 points, while Scottie Barnes almost recorded a triple-double with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists in one of Toronto's most complete efforts on the season.
It took Rajakovic one-third of his rookie season as a head coach, but he finally managed to rip the Band-Aid off. The result was a success so smashing that Rajakovic needs to keep rolling this group out there until someone proves they have a fatal error that can be exploited.
Darko Rajakovic finds excellent Toronto Raptors starting lineup in win vs. Wizards.
While it's hard to make judgments based on one game, especially against a Wizards defense that has the impregnability of a sheet of wet toilet paper getting run over by a Sherman tank, the Raptors looked more free-flowing on offense. Their approach seemed to be more modern, eschewing slower sets for speed and spacing.
The changes were made to improve lackluster shooting in the starting lineup while also empowering Barnes as a playmaker. The move not only checked both of those boxes, but it did so without making Anunoby or Pascal Siakam (22 points, six rebounds, 11 assists) any less effective.
Four of Toronto's five starters hit double figures, all while Schroder provided 10 assists off the bench. Trent as a starter and Schroder as a bench scorer both seem to be more effective roles for both players, and their play against Washington confirms that Rajakovic was sitting on a gold mine for a very long time.
While some might wonder if Rajakovic waited too late to make a lineup change in a season that is slipping away at breakneck speed, the fact the team looked so invigorated instantly after making the move officially should speak volumes. Rajakovic has no choice but to stick with this lineup after it torched Washington's defense.