Players don’t usually like to talk about the NBA trade deadline, but the Raptors seemed to be sending a collective ‘don’t trade me’ message to President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri with Tuesday night’s 103-93 win in Washington.
The Raptors came out hot against the Wizards, shooting 57.1 percent in the first half, sharing the wealth and assisting on 13 of 24 made baskets. They seemed to playing the team chemistry card, emphasizing how everyone was important and contributes as nine players scored in the first half and the bench contributed 24 points. Unfortunately in Toronto, the team mantra is defense and the Wizards were also hot, shooting 56.4 percent behind a herculean effort from John Wall who had 19 first-half points. The Raptors led 55-49, but there wasn’t much for Head Coach Dwane Casey to be happy about.
“It’s tough coming back off the break to get that energy going,” Casey said. “We finally got it going, probably in the middle of the third quarter.”
Toronto did start the third quarter looking more like the team Casey envisions playing every night as the Raptors held the Wizards to just 12 points over the first 9.5 minutes and took control of the game. Kyle Lowry was unconscious shooting from the field, hitting 6-8 shots for 14 points as the Raptors outscored the Wizards 29-21 to take a 14 point lead into the final frame.
“(Lowry) took the game over in the third quarter and willed us to a win,” Casey said. “Just his aggressiveness, he attacked their feet, didn’t settle for the three, got into the paint and just kept attacking.”
There was more pain to come in Washington and the locals started booing as Toronto quickly ran their lead up to 20 points and Head Coach Randy Wittman finally lost it as he deliberately had himself tossed with two technical fouls at the 4:39 mark.
The game should have been over at that point, but a 5-0 foul call run by the referees against some confused Raptors put the ball back into the Wizards hands as part of an 11-0 scoring run that made the game close in the final two minutes. However, Lowry closed it out going 4-4 from the free throw line to re-establish a 10 point lead and the Wizards missed their final four shots to help lower their shooting percentage to just 38.1 percent in the second half.
Casey provided his own explanation of the Raptors problems closing out this game.
“We just turned the ball over just way too many times against their pressure,” Casey explained. “That’s just from rust and time off and timing, speed of the game.”
Lowry led all scorers with 24 points and 10 assists, further establishing just how important he is to the Raptors success. DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Greivis Vasquez contributed 14 points each. Toronto shot 56.8 percent from the field during the game and their bench outscored the Wizards reserves 43-21.
The Wizards were led by 22 points from Wall, but their All-Star only scored 3 points in the second half as he went 0-7 from the field after the break. Marcin Gortat contributed 18 points and 11 rebounds and Nene had 17 points. Washington enjoyed a big advantage on the glass, out-rebounding the Raptors 40-29, but couldn’t turn enough of those extra possessions into points.
Washington heads to Atlanta to face the Hawks on Wednesday.
Toronto returns home to face the Bulls on Wednesday in a huge game with implications for the Eastern Conference standings.
Currently the 29-24 Raptors are 1.5 games ahead of Chicago, 3.5 games ahead of Atlanta and 4 games in front of Washington and Brooklyn.
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Raptors GM Ujiri Still Open To Trades
“I think we always want to get better, we want to continue to grow,” Ujiri said. “We have plenty of work to do. I’ll be right here waiting and we’ll see what happens. I never know what to expect. Sometimes it’s quiet until the last minute. Sometimes it’s busy.”