The Toronto Raptors were all business at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night, executing a first half that saw them score 72 points against the visiting Washington Wizards. The early swath of destruction was ultimately the killer blow but the intensity that the Raptors were able to keep up throughout the entire 48 minutes was just as impressive in the 127-108 victory.
‘We got a little sloppy with the basketball I thought,” said head coach Jay Triano following the game, nitpicking on what was a pretty consistent effort. “But that’s what a desperate team is going to do. They’re going to come from behind and they’re going to look for steals and they’re going to look like they’re running away and come back. We had addressed it during one of the timeouts but for the most part we took care of the basketball, especially against their press and against their scrappy play.”
Triano was also playing the humbled winner because the Wizards were far from scrappy until it was too late. The 5-12 squad came into the game giving up an average of 104.8 points a contest and allowing opponents to shoot 47.9% field, good for third last in the NBA. That number got worse as the night passed by with the Raptors shooting a scorching 66.7% during their first half onslaught and finishing with 58% shooting in the affair. Shooting guard DeMar DeRozan was top scorer for the Raptors for th efirst time this season, spitting out 20 points on a very efficient 7 for 11 shooting. The absence of suspended Wizards big man Hilton Armstrong allowed DeRozan and the rest of the Raps more room to operate in the opposing paint and the ensuing aggression helped seven different Raptors to score in double figures.
“We need everybody to contribute,” said DeRozan. “We do that it’s hard to stop us.”
Red was the predominant colour on this night with World AIDS day in effect and no doubt that is exactly what Wizards head coach Flip Saunders was seeing as he watched his team flail and flitter about the court as they scrambled uselessly on defence. His perimeter defence was spotty all night and his bigs didn’t do much to mask the lapses. The Raptors used the clock well too, registering 32 field goals over the first two frames while the Wizards could muster just 20 over the same span.
“Just an embarressing effort,” said Saunders following the game. “There are always ways you can make excuses – been on the road, long trip, playing every other day in different cities – but that’s what this league is about. Very disappointed.”
The second half started out much the same with the home side building on their first half lead, gaining a 25-point advantage with 5:14 remaining in the third stanza. They maintained that lead throughout the Q as well with rookie Ed Davis building up an impressive debut. After missing the first 17 games of the season the North Carolina product contributed 11 points on an efficient 5 of 7 shooting to go with 6 rebounds in his first NBA game.
“Like coach said before the game, he wanted me to just rebound and block shots and let everything else come to me,” said Davis. “That’s just what I stuck to the whole game. I was just trying to play hard and help the team any way I could.”
With the Raptors bench beating up on the Wizards reserves there was no let up and the intensity and Triano was able to keep his players charged over the entire 48 minutes with good bench management. As a result the team was able to maintain an insurmountable lead throughout most of the second half. In a sports where furious rallies are expected the Wiz never answered the call, thanks in part to Toronto’s energy.
“After this game everybody realizes that everybody has to bring a little bit,” said reserve guard Leandro Barbosa who finished with 16 points in support. He was also part of a pine crew that has outscored opposing benches in seven straight contests. “We have a good team. We’ve just got to believe that we definately can do it.
“This is what we need to do every game. It’s tough. It’s not easy.”