Photo Credit: Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors beat the Washington Wizards 137-115 on Wednesday night in D.C., leaving the Raps one game under 0.500.
The defensively challenged Wizards struggled to contain the Raptors right off the bat, as Toronto scored 40 points in the first quarter and ended the half with a season-high 74. Norman Powell led the way for his squad with 28 points, hitting 3 of 4 three-pointers, continuing his hot scoring form as a starter. Pascal Siakam had another big night, notching 26 points as he aggressively attacked rookie forward Deni Avdija with a variety of dribble and post moves. Kyle Lowry shot 5 for 8 behind the arc for 21 points, while Chris Boucher contributed 17 points and 16 rebounds.
Washington’s backcourt duo of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook – scoring 24 points and 23 points respectively – carried the bulk of the scoring for the Wizards. It was an off night for Beal, the NBA’s leading scorer, as he only hit 40% of his shots and went 1 for 6 from beyond the arc. Washington found early success on offence dropping the ball into the post, where centre Robin Lopez took advantage of a clear size mismatch with Boucher. Toronto eventually countered by doubling Lopez on the catch, forcing him to find open teammates on the perimeter, or turn the ball over.
While this defensive adjustment worked to slow down the Wizards, it might not work as well against teams with better shooting, or bigs that are good passers. Aron Baynes has yet to find his groove this year on either end of the floor, often failing to consolidate his presence in the paint and on the glass. Chris Boucher has become a good rebounder and rim protector, but his height and slight frame make him a target for bigger, stronger centres. Double-teaming in the paint is probably not sustainable, and the Raptors will continue to struggle defensively if they don’t address their interior defending.
Guard DeAndre’ Bembry continues to impress and features as an important role player for Nick Nurse’s squad, logging almost 24 minutes and contributing 10 points on Wednesday. His energy and presence as a facilitator off the bench was especially valuable in the absence of recent standout Yuta Watanabe, who missed the game with a lower-body injury.
Toronto will look to even up their season record when they face the Boston Celtics on Thursday night at the TD Garden.