Game Preview: Raptors at Wizards
The Raptors will face the Wizards for the second consecutive game on Friday, this time on Washington's home floor. In the previous meeting between the teams, the Wizards earned a dominant 105-96 victory on the Air Canada Centre floor that was more lopsided than the final score indicated.
Tip-off: 7:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: TSN1/4/5 / TSN1050
Midseason additions, familiar faces
Prior to Wednesday's game, head coach Scott Brooks discussed Toronto's mid-season acquisitions. Having coached Serge Ibaka in Oklahoma City for the first six seasons of Ibaka's NBA career, Brooks has a very good idea of what the versatile big man brings to Toronto.
"Great guy, great worker, big-time player and he's going to be very successful and help the Raptors in a lot of different ways that maybe they haven't had in the past," Brooks said. "He's a shot maker and a shot blocker and a great teammate."
Brooks looked back on his time with Ibaka fondly, reflecting on Ibaka's first season in Oklahoma City when he was adjusting to the NBA game.
"One thing I loved about him is he played hard and you can never discount that," Brooks said. "That is a skill and a talent that nobody really talks about because there is no number on it."
Starting with defence
After leading by two at the end of the first quarter in Wednesday's loss, things fell apart for Toronto. With the offence struggling to open the second quarter, Toronto allowed shooting woes to affect the defensive intensity. The result was a 24-1 Wizards run to open the quarter.
"It started on defence," Patrick Patterson said. "Us not being able to get stops, us not communicating — everything you thought we did wrong, we actually did wrong. That affected our offence. We rushed it too much on the offensive end. We missed shots. We had good looks, but they didn't fall. And we were just careless with the ball."
With Kyle Lowry sidelined as he rehabs from right wrist surgery, minimizing the mistakes becomes crucial as the margin for error shrinks. Starting a quarter the way the Raptors started the second quarter on Wednesday is simply not an option if the team wants to avoid a repeat performance on Friday.
"We've just got to come in ready," Norman Powell said. "We've just got to come in, play hard, compete, and hopefully those things will turn around, us making shots, getting stops. Focusing in on the defensive end first, and making it easier on the offensive end."
With Lowry out, Cory Joseph slides into the starting spot, shortening the bench rotation. Adding in P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka has been a positive on both ends of the floor for Toronto, but the team is still adjusting to new teammates. Lost in the shuffle of Lowry's absence is sophomore point guard Delon Wright suddenly playing a bigger role after an extended layoff following rehab from shoulder surgery.
"We've just got to figure out how to play together," Powell said of the new-look second unit. "It's Delon's fifth game back, he's getting into the flow of the rotation, it might be that everybody is trying to feel each other out on that second unit but that's going to come by just playing defence. We get stops, pressuring the ball, being active, and bringing that energy, the offensive side is going to take care of itself. That second unit, myself included, hopefully do a better job of focusing and locking in on defence and bringing energy to the game."
Making it easier
Wednesday's loss snapped a four-game winning streak for Toronto. In three of those four games, the Raptors rallied from 17 down to pull off comeback victories. Trailing by 16 points at the half and 22 points heading into the fourth against Washington on Wednesday proved to be too much for the Raptors to overcome.
"I were to tell you every time we go out there and get down we're going to come back and win, we can't keep doing that," DeMar DeRozan said. "It's tough on us, it's extremely exhausting. To get down that much you have to work that much harder to get back in the game, let alone win."
Getting off too better starts has been an issue for Toronto in general. Without Lowry, this becomes even more important. For DeMarre Carroll, the answer lies in the team's defensive effort from the jump.
"That's how we won three games in a row, through defence," Carroll said. "We were getting out, getting easy shots, transition threes. I think that's how we came back in the New York game, we started to take more threes. So I think we've just got to move the ball and trust each other a little bit more."