Final Score: Raptors 117, Wizards 113
- Kawhi Leonard rested tonight with the Raptors playing the second night of their back-to-back. Head coach Nick Nurse did a good job of preparing for nights without the former All-Star. In this game, Toronto went with a back-court heavy approach, relying on the likes of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanFleet. The team evidently wanted to run a portion of the offense through Serge Ibaka after his last performance, who was mostly placed into the Leonard role. The forward seemed to do well in spots, with 16 points and 9 rebounds, but also created good mismatches with well-timed switches.
- Speaking of the backcourt, Fred VanFleet once again showed up greatly for the Raptors on a night they needed it. While he won’t pop out on the stat sheet, he took the ball down the court on many possessions, allowing Kyle Lowry to play off-the-ball and set up the offense in some favorable positions. The loss of Demar Derozan, who could handle both guard positions when called upon, opens the door for VanFleet to be more active as a passer and play-maker.
- Another ripple effect of resting Leonard this evening was greater minutes to young players. Four of the five other forwards on the roster played above 24 minutes, and scored above 10 points. However, on the downside, the Raptors had 17 turnovers total. Many of these were untimely, resulting in 30 points off turnovers for the home team. This is expected when playing younger players, but is something Toronto will look to clean up as they plan to have additional rest nights for Kawhi Leonard.
Play of the Game: With less than 2 seconds left on the shot clock, and 14.6 left in the game, Fred VanFleet hit a incredibly tough midrange shot to essentially put the Wizards away. This pushed the Raptor lead to 4 and made it a two possession game, sealing the win.
- Rebounding issues were still evident, a problem carrying over from their first game against the Heat. This can be attributed to both the loss of Dwight Howard and Ian Mahimi finding himself in foul trouble once again. In the first half, the Wizards were giving up easy points inside the paint on top of a extra handful of offensive rebounds. The team seemed to have a better grip on the issue in the second half, but there a few plays late in the 4th quarter that swung momentum in Toronto’s direction with second chance points. Washington finished with 15 less rebounds than the Raptors, but they hope that issue will naturally resolve itself with the return of Howard.
- Bradley Beal passed Gilbert Arenas as the all-time franchise leader in 3 point shots made tonight. After four years of injuries hampering a promising career, Beal stepped up for the Wizards last year playing all 82 games, plus 6 in the playoffs. Gilbert Arena set the record in his 8th season, but shooting guard broke this record in his 7th season. The incredible part is, Beal could have broken it in his sixth season, had the Wizards won their series against Toronto or even extended it to game 7. Congrats to Bradley Beal!
- The Wizards have found themselves ultimately snake-bitten by crazy plays with seconds left to go in both their games. After a back-breaking Kelly Olynyk putback in their last one, Washington watched Fred VanFleet crush them with a fantastic shot that gave Toronto a 4 point lead with seconds left. The team is all too familiar with these kinds of loses from last year, but the good news is- it’s only the second game of the season. The Wizards have plenty of time to learn and defend better in these crucial late game situations.
Play of the Game: With the Wizards down 12 after a poor run from their bench unit, John Wall came off the bench looking to ignite a spark on the team with only eight minutes left. The point guard drove to the basket for a contested layup, missing his shot, but Kelly Oubre Jr. flew in over Pascal Siakam for the slam and got fouled in the process. The play ignited the crowd and the team, fueling their late game run.