Saturday, March 4, 2017

Takeaways: DeRozan makes franchise history in win over Wizards

• No more slow starts
• DeRozan makes history
• Another rough night for JV

Simply put, this was the biggest and most impressive road win for the Raptors through three quarters of the season.

Toronto has now won nine of the last 10 games against the Washington Wizards. With the win, the Raptors don’t just pull in to a tie with the Wizards in the Eastern Conference, they also take the season series, thus owning the tiebreaker over the Wizards. The Raptors also have the tiebreaker over the Boston Celtics.

Toronto also improves to 4-1 without Kyle Lowry since the all-star break with impressive wins over the Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers and Wizards.

No rest for the weary as they face the Milwaukee Bucks in the second game of a back-to-back on Saturday. However, Dwane Casey’s squad showed they have the depth and defence to navigate the upcoming tough road trip without Lowry. The schedule does favour them as they now don’t face a top-10 defence until the final game of the regular season versus the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Here are my takeaways from the Raptors’ 114-106 win:

Great Start

The slow starts are a thing of the past, or at least for one night. Despite early foul trouble, Toronto got off to a hot start in the first quarter, putting up 35 points on 63 per cent shooting and four-for-nine from three. The ball movement was great as the Raptors had six assists in the frame. They only managed 11 assists all game against Washington during Wednesday’s loss and most of them came late when the game was out of reach.

The offence on this night was kick started by activity defensively as Washington had zero points in the paint. Conversely, Toronto’s first four points were in the paint and ended the quarter on a 20-8 run.

DeRozan Substitution Patterns

DeMar DeRozan exited the game late in the first quarter instead of early in the second quarter as he normally does. Casey subbed his star at the time he normally provides Kyle Lowry with his rest. DeRozan was also pulled with less than four minutes left in the second half after some sluggish defence and questionable shot selection. He did not seem to be happy and was shown on the TV broadcast demonstratively arguing about it with assistant coach Rex Kalamian. The animosity didn’t last long as DeRozan returned to the action shortly after and immediately hit his next two shots.

Bench Scoring

The Raptors bench was outscored 42-32 in the loss on Wednesday. In the rematch, Toronto held the Washington bench to just 14 points. Norman Powell had 21 points on his own and 14 in the fourth quarter alone. An honourable mention goes to Delon Wright, who was plus-23 in 22 minutes of action and was perfect from the floor, scoring nine points whilst contributing four blocks. Dwane Casey only utilized four players off his bench, but they combined for 44 points.

Winning Wings

Much is made about the Wizards’ athletic wing players. None of the players they threw out there were a match for DeRozan and Powell.

Their Batman and Robin act saved Toronto after they blew a 19-point lead. The tandem combined for 29 points in the fourth quarter and each hit a clutch three-pointer to put the game out of reach. DeRozan had 32 points on 10-17 shooting, 13 rebounds, five assists and made three 3-pointers. Powell followed his lead by matching a season-high 21 on 7-for-12 shooting, two of four from three-point land and six rebounds. He clearly likes the matchup with Washington as he’s recorded 38 points over the last two games.

On top of everything else, DeRozan set the franchise record for 20-point games with 274. DeRozan now has 26 30-point games this season. The only Raptor who had more was Vince Carter with 30 in the 2000-01 season.

Tough Night For JV

After picking up two quick fouls, Jonas Valanciunas was sent to the bench, where he spent the majority of the game. He was a minus-14 in 10 minutes in the first half. He finished the game playing just 12 minutes with two points, three rebounds and just a single blocked shot. At the final buzzer, he was a team worst -18.

Serge Ibaka’s ability to play the five has nullified any need to play Valanciunas in crunch time. Since the all-star break, the Lithuanian is averaging just 18 minutes and eight points per game. He has yet to play a minute in the fourth quarter since the trade deadline as well. The Raptors have won all five of these fourth quarters.

With every game, Jonas Valanciunas becomes less apart of the Raptors present plans and seems more expendable in the future.

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