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While I subscribe to the theory that professional athletes are identifying themselves as being fit to play as soon as they set foot on the court, even I will acknowledge that there is room for some sympathy surrounding a grueling schedule and/or injury issues. The Toronto Raptors (23-34) could not claim either in the aftermath of their 90-84 loss to the Washington Wizards, appearing positively lethargic despite coming off two days off spent at home and boasting a full complement of players (Sebastian Telfair was activated, but not used).
Toronto shot just 36.7% (29-79) from the field and 26.3% (5-19) from three-point range while turning the ball over 14 times and trailing 49-39 in the rebounding battle. Defensively, the Raps were decent in the halfcourt (the Wiz shot 42% from the floor), but allowed 17 fast break points as part of a poor effort to hustle back on 'D'.
Yes, Washington came in as winners of six of their last eight, having beaten no shortage of playoff-bound teams, and yes, the Raps at least chipped away off what was a 12-point deficit to pull things as close as five, but Monday night represented an unacceptable effort from a rested, team at home that still has plenty of work to do in order to make the postseason a reality.
Lucas, DeRozan: The Best of a Bad Lot
Might as well use this space to give some credit to the only two Raptors who shot north of 50%. John Lucas III (nine points on 4-5 shooting) made the most of what could well be his final game as the team's primary back-up point guard. For a stretch of more than seven minutes in the second quarter, Lucas' six points on 3-3 shooting was the only thing standing between the team and a completely scoreless chunk of game time. DeMar DeRozan, meanwhile, picked up at least some of the slack of his ice cold wingmate (more on Gay later), scoring 25 points on 9-17 shooting and making seven of his nine attempts from the line (albeit missing a key attempt with a minute to go in the fourth and an opportunity to cut the deficit to four points). Underwhelming? Sure, but as the title indicates, the best of a bad lot.
Rudy's Rough Night
The cutesy angle here would be to suggest that Gay's 1-11 shooting (and five turnovers) was simply paying back John Wall's ugly showing (1-12, seven turnovers) in the previous meeting between the teams. The other, less amusing way to look at this performance is that a team is only as good as its best player and, therefore, the blame has to fall on him for failing to show up against a supposedly "lesser opponent".
A Key Defensive Letdown
Flashback to the game's final minute-plus, wherein Washington showed that they still don't quite know how to close out a game in spite of their recent winning ways. Up by six late, Nene commited an ill-advised loose ball foul on DeRozan to give him a chance to add points with a stopped clock (he made 1-2). Then, Wall nearly lost the ball at halfcourt on the ensuing possession before calling a desperation timeout. With the Wiz looking shaky and Toronto gaining momentum, Wall then managed to cut to the rim untouched as Raptor defenders stood flat-footed and failed to react. A late chance to make amends for a poor effort went for naught, as they couldn't even find an extra gear for one critical defensive stand.
- I was so ready to laud the Raptors' hilariously ridiculous "Harlem Shake" offering, but now I can't help but take the buzzkill approach of "is THIS what they were doing instead of prepping for Washington??". Well, that and "these Harlem Shake vids got played out in an awful hurry!".
The first of their 16 remaining road games comes Wednesday night in Cleveland (7:00pm, RSN). To date, they have split a pair of games against the Cavs this year.
Prediction: Raps 100, Cavs 97 (36-15 this season)