Delon Wright was open.
The Raptors were down by two early in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s Game 5. Ty Lawson had mistakenly anticipated Wright setting a screen, allowing the Raptors point guard to receive a pass with a second of airspace behind the 3-point arc.
Just three days earlier, Wright had passed up two open 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of Game 4. Everyone had been giving the ex-Utah Ute grief for his tentativeness.
Teammates. Family. Even strangers on Twitter and Instagram.
This time, Wright knew not to hesitate.
Later in the game, the Raptors held a one point lead with just under four minutes to play. Toronto’s ensuing possession was the type of stagnant late game offence that fans of the team know all too well.
Kyle Lowry slowly walked the ball up the floor. The Raptors took way too long to get into their sets. After a Jonas Valanciunas screen failed to rid DeMar DeRozan of Otto Porter, DeRozan caught the ball with six seconds left on the shot clock and nowhere to go.
DeRozan swung the ball to Wright, who caught it a few feet behind the arc with just three seconds on the clock.
Wright didn’t really have a choice.
Wright’s second 3-pointer of the game gave the Raptors a four point lead.
40 seconds later, the Los Angeles native snuck behind the defence to finish an alley-oop layup to extend Toronto’s advantage to six. The Raptors’ lead only grew from that point, and they closed out game 5 with a 108-98 win.
A willingness to take 3-pointers was a point of emphasis for the 6’5″ point guard this year. In his first two seasons, Wright took just 43 threes. This year, he took 153 shots from beyond the arc, making them at a respectable 37% clip.
Besides making both 3-pointers he attempted in game 5, Wright played a crucial role in helping the Raptors take a 3-2 series lead. He used his length and quickness to play disruptive defence. He grabbed five defensive rebounds in a game where the Raptors were getting hammered on the glass. Wright was a plus 13 in just 26 minutes of action, scoring 18 points on 6 of 10 shooting.
If it wasn’t for Wright, Toronto wouldn’t be heading to Washington with a chance to close out the Wizards in game 6.
It won’t be easy for the Raptors on Friday night. Since 2014, Toronto is just 1-3 in closeout games on the road. Their sole victory came last year against a Bucks team that was clearly inferior to this Wizards squad.
But a game 6 win is attainable for a Toronto team that went 25-16 on the road in the regular season. Washington, on the other hand, was just 23-18 at home this year.
To end the series on Friday night, the Raptors will have to cut down on turnovers after they combined for 37 in games 3 and 4 in D.C. They’ll have to rebound the ball a lot better than they did in game 5, when they were crushed 50-35 on the glass.
And if the ball gets swung to Delon Wright for an open 3-pointer, he sure as hell better take it.