Note: This is a guest post written by Damon Flatman.
The Toronto Raptors resumed their campaign tonight in Washington with a victory over the Washington Wizards, by a score of 103-93. The Wizards gritty play and active defense posed a challenge for the Raps early on, and some tough officiating nearly brought them back within reach. Still, the lead the Raps built through the 3rd quarter proved too much. The Raptors are now 3-0 against the Wiz this season, winning by an 8 point margin in November at the ACC and a 13 point margin in January at the Verizon Center. Heading into tonight’s matchup, Washington held 6th place in the east (25-27), not far from Toronto in 3rd (28-24).
With the victory the Raptors take another step towards separating themselves as one of the conference’s leaders. The Raps ultimately played well but poor execution and some tough calls late in the game nearly let the home team get back in it. The Raptors have now won their last 3 games as they look to continue their winning ways tomorrow night at home against the 4th place Chicago Bulls (27-25) at 7:00pm ET.
The Raptors struggled offensively early on. Although they were taking advantage of their looks and shooting efficiently (FG 55% through 1st quarter), they had difficulty getting those looks due to passing without a purpose and poor screens. As the game progressed the Raps appeared to get more comfortable on the offensive end, opening up healthy looks and getting into their sets early. Toronto was able to better establish themselves inside, scoring 20 of their 28 2nd quarter points in the paint. Attacking Washington’s big men paid dividends, as Gortat and co. collected fouls they were forced to be more passive on the defensive end. Through the second half the Raptors boasted a balanced offensive attack, with 6 players scoring in double digits.
In the first half the Raptors allowed the Wizards to shoot 56% from the field and John Wall to tally 19 point, getting comfortable early. However, many of Washington’s baskets came off of offensive rebounds or the Raptor’s poor offensive execution the play before. Toronto’s defense in the 3rd was strong, and their ability to translate to good offense out of defensive stops allowed them to build a 14 point lead by the end of the quarter. The Raptors maintained solid communication and rotations on the defensive end through the last frame, holding Washington to a point total of 93
The Wizards out-rebounded Toronto 40-29 tonight, particularly on the offensive glass, earning 16 offensive rebounds to the Raptor’s 2. Fortunately for Toronto, they still squeaked out the victory. Patrick Patterson and Amir Johnson led the way with 6 and 5 boards respectively, while Ariza and Nene combined for 22 boards for Washington.
Game Ball: Kyle Lowry
Lowry continues to show the league he’s a force to reckon with in his contract year. Toronto’s PG had 10 assists and 24 points on 8-19 shooting, an impressive stat line for an Eastern Conference player left out of the All Star game. 14 of Kyle’s points came in the 3rd quarter, where the Raptors built their lead. A considerable portion of Lowry’s offense came from attacking the rim, freeing up turnaround jump shots for himself and kick-out opportunities for his teammates.