Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 140-111 win over the Washington Wizards.
One — Easy: The Wizards are a joke. They didn’t even bother showing up. The entire team was late to warm up, and that lethargy carried over to the floor. Washington committed 26 turnovers, conceded 58 points in the paint, and allowed the Raptors to shoot 57 percent from the field, 51 percent from deep with 35 assists to boot. Sure, this was also a ruthless display by a Raptors team that is nearing full health, but it’s almost hard to assess these results when it comes against such a pathetic showing.
Two — Boss: Marc Gasol just needed some load management, which is entirely understandable given that he was coming off a season in which he played over 100 games as part of his two-time championship summer. There’s a pep in Gasol’s step that was painfully lacking in his start to the season, and sitting out the last month with a hamstring issue might have been a blessing in disguise. This version of Gasol is brimming with enthusiasm, itching to shoot, and giddily toying with defenses. The Raptors need to bottle this energy and unleash it in the playoffs.
Three — Flow: The starters have built plenty of big leads this season, but this game finished as a blowout because the bench was so effective. The bench was so effective because Gasol was there to orchestrate. There’s a stark contrast between subsisting off deflections for fast-break chances, to the flow and movement orbiting around Gasol. There’s still some unsightly hesitation from Pat McCaw, who refuses to shoot for some odd reason, but that’s less of a concern when Gasol is always there as an outlet. Gasol’s passing keeps the offense moving from side to side, his screening creates separation for wings to get downhill, and his shooting opens the paint to create driving lanes. For the first time all season, you could say that the bench actually produced beautiful basketball.
Four — Steady: A few weeks back, Nick Nurse knocked Norm Powell for his inconsistency, saying that he would score “26 points one night and zero the next,” which wasn’t so much criticism as it was facts. Nurse was reminded of that quote before today’s contest, and he was mostly speechless outside of a plea for more meticulous defense, because what could he really say? Powell is averaging 20 points over his last 13 games while shooting 58 percent from the field and 48 percent from deep. Every move he makes is decisive, his shots are steady and confident, and most importantly, this level of production has carried over to the bench unit. Powell isn’t perfect, he doesn’t create much of his own offense, and he might not be the most attentive defender, but who can really ask for more? Powell scored 28 points tonight and hardly broke a sweat.
Five — Aggressive: Terence Davis doesn’t bring it every night, but he’s explosive when he’s on. In that sense he is much like Powell, who was also adored as a rookie who surpassed all expectations. Davis carved the Wizards’ defense apart and he poured it on late with three after three in the fourth quarter. His minutes will inevitably drop with Fred VanVleet scheduled to return in tomorrow’s game, but Davis will absolutely factor into the rotation because his offensive impact far surpasses that of anyone else in contention for the eighth man. If Davis isn’t on, then Nurse can look elsewhere, but he has earned that chance to get the benefit of the doubt.
Six — Lively: OG Anunoby is back to his early-season brilliance. He’s at his best when he’s playing all-out on defense, which is typically the biggest determinant of his scoring. Anunoby bottled up an All-Star in Bradley Beal (14 points on 4-of-12 shooting), and came up with four steals to fuel the Raptors’ deadly fast-court attack. Anunoby is clearly at his best when guarding perimeter players, where he can weaponize his strength and his length to blow up dribble hand-offs, contain dribble penetration, and to jump passing lanes for deflections.
Seven — Effective: Nurse will tinker with different starting lineups over the coming weeks, but there’s something here in the big lineup. There’s all the benefits of being bigger — better rebounding, mismatches in the post, and more length on defense — without the trade-off of less spacing and playmaking. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam initiate plays, Gasol bridges the gap, while Anunoby and Serge Ibaka feast in the middle. It’s also viable defensively, as Siakam and Anunoby have the lateral quickness to hang with most guards, while Gasol and Ibaka are smart help defenders who can cover for any lapses. It’s basically the strategy that the Sixers have tried — and failed — to execute.
Eight — Caution: Lowry banged his knee on a play at the basket, and briefly left the game. He did return to the contest, but was noticeably less engaged. Fortunately, the Wizards are a joke, so the Raptors got the win without having to tax Lowry, who played just 22 minutes. Moving forward, it’s absolutely imperative for the Raptors to cut down on Lowry’s workload, as there’s no good reason for a 33-year-old guard to lead the league in minutes per game. Lowry carried the Raptors through those injuries, and now it’s time for everyone else to repay the favour.
Nine — Lethargic: The only blemish tonight was Siakam’s noticeable lack of energy. There were short spurts where he forced his way to the free-throw line and got out on the break, but for the most part he didn’t have it. The lack of energy was most noticeable on defense, where he allowed a back cut on a baseline inbound for a layup, then followed that up by ball watching and leaving a corner shooter open. Having suffered a groin injury, it’s likely that Siakam will need a bit of time for his conditioning to return. It may take even longer to fully trust his body to play all-out as he normally would.
Ten — Discontent: Beal is growing tired of the losing in Washington, and he chastised the team following its loss to Chicago on Wednesday. His malaise carried over tonight, where he barely looked to be involved and was promptly benched. Beal would be a prime trade candidate, if not for the fact that he signed an extension this summer that meant he couldn’t be dealt this year.
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