Norman Powell led the way with 28 points, Marc Gasol splashed 6-of-7 three pointers, and the Raptors beat the Wizards in Toronto 140-111 Friday night. For Washington, it was an incredibly disappointing showing, especially coming off star guard Bradley Beal’s comments that were critical of team’s “culture.”
Troy Brown Jr., whose development continues to impress, led the Wizards with 22 points on 9-13 shooting (2-4 from three), 8 rebounds, and 3 steals. Isaac Bonga turned in a career day, leading the starters with 17 points on 6-9 shooting, making both of his threes and pulling down 10 boards. Both Ish Smith (12 points, 8 assists) and Anzejs Pasecniks (11 points, 6 rebounds) turned in solid performances.
The Wizards started slow — they were down by 13 before they had played 7 minutes and were down by as many as 24 in the first half — and left with a whimper. However, they had nice stretches in the second and third quarters. Washington cut the 24-point lead at the 7:15 mark in the second quarter to 14 by halftime and trailed by single digits after an Isaiah Thomas three with 7:38 left in the 3rd. However, by the end of the quarter, the Raptors let by 24 yet again, with the game essentially in hand.
Not a Great Look…
I’m all for calling out your teammates, your organization, your coaches, anyone, when you know something is wrong. You could even argue that as the team’s unquestioned star (Yes, unquestioned, even if he has a rough night here and there) it’s Beal’s responsibility to be that voice, to demand more from the team and management when the moment calls for it.
This just felt completely out of left field. Admittedly, I can’t know entirely what goes on behind the scenes, but given all the effort the Wizards have shown night in and night out — the togetherness they’ve displayed even when the active roster has been a revolving door — I just don’t buy the idea that we have culture issues. My hunch is that Beal looked at the injury report, saw that we’ll have most of the rotation back soon and thought he could leverage his star-power to get an extra piece — to be competitive, even if not contending.
Considering the incredibly heavy load Beal carries, you can understand why he’d want to play meaningful basketball. But these public proclamations can backfire, creating team chemistry issues that weren’t even there before and bringing unnecessary scrutiny for an organization trying to build the right way. Time will tell how this plays out, but tonight, it didn’t look so great.
The Raptors Are Really Good
Yes, the Wizards swept the Raptors in the 2015 playoffs. But these are not those Wizards, and they’re not playing against those Raptors either. Pascal Siakam has blossomed into a legitimate star, OG Anunoby, and Fred VanVleet have stepped up in starting roles and Toronto’s player development continues to build NBA ready rotation pieces, with Terence Davis and Chris Boucher being the latest success stories.
The Raptors are fourth in the East. They have the second best defensive rating in the NBA. The Wizards committed 26 turnovers tonight and Toronto had 35 assists. Toronto slashed 57.1/51.2/87.5. It makes sense that the Raptors beat the Wizards really, really bad. They’re just a good basketball team, and as currently constructed, the Wizards are not.
Even though it’s tempting to make this about the controversy, they lost to a team that’s a lot better than them. Maybe that’s just that.
Thankfully, the Wizards have an extra off day before playing Detroit at Capital One Arena, before playing 4 of our last 5 January games on the road. It really feels like the Wizards fortunes have turned — at least in the short term — after blowing a lead against Utah on Sunday, but with another win or two, maybe they can get things going in the right direction again. Don’t look at those lottery odds too much yet, Wizards fans… but maybe keep the page bookmarked.