Symbolic Red Gear & Matador D: Toronto Raptors Olé! Washington Wizards
Debating which is worse, wasting two and half hours watching that putrid Wizards defensive performance against the Toronto Raptors in a 127- 108 rout, or trying to figure out what to write for a game recap. Both seem like torture for a Wizards fan, but I will at least try a bigger literary effort than Andray Blatche does at defense. The Wizards team wore red shoes, headbands, and warm ups to honor World AIDS Week, although it was pretty symbolic of the matador D that they unveiled in Canada Wednesday evening.
The Wizards did their usual roadkill performance in remarkable fashion by giving up 72 points on 32 made FGs — in the first half! With the Magic, Celtics and Hawks already destroying the Wizards this season, you could at least counter that those are playoff teams. Not the case with a sub par 6-11 Raptors team, the Wizards were lucky to hold them under 140 points.
The Raptors did shoot a blistering 67% in the first half, yet, most of them were dunks, fast-break lay-ups and easy buckets around the hoop. Thirty of the Raptors first 40 points came in the paint (62 for the game), and they tallied 50 points in the first 17 minutes of the game, ending up with 32 fast break points. Toronto also crushed the Wiz 52-30 in rebounding.
Andrea Bargnani looked like the version of Dirk Nowitzki everyone thought he could be when the Raptors drafted him first overall in 2006. He threw down facial dunks, grabbed offensive boards at ease, and flowed in any jumper he wanted at will. DeMar Derozan did a ‘Bo Kimble at Loyola Marymount’ impression, Leandro Barbosa was Tim Hardaway in Run TMC, Jose Calderon put on a ‘Fat Lever with the Nuggets’ play-making act, and Jerryd Bayless was, sigh … you get the picture. But let John Wall paint it for you:
“I don’t even want to talk about it. That’s a video game stat. That’s like somebody that studied a video game so much that he knows exactly when to shot it and get any shot he wanted. That’s basically how it felt. They can get any shot any time. They were getting dunks after dunks, layups after layups and foul after foul.”
If you thought the Wizards would come out in the second half with something to prove, you were quickly disappointed as the Raptors made easy passes around the three-point line for repeated successful shots. The rest of the game was garbage time, only two late Cartier Martin threes kept the victory margin under 20.
The few Wiz highlights came on a couple impressive dunks by JaVale McGee. Wall also seemed to have some healthy quickness back after a slow start to the night — even though it was highly questionable why he was still playing so late in the game. Arenas was ice cold, and Blatche gave fuel for all of his critics with an utter slogging display that would only make his fantasy owners slightly happy.
The one play, depicted at 1:08 mark of the above video, that stands out in the abomination came late in the second quarter after McGee missed a 5-foot turn around shot. The Raptors secured the rebound and made ONE outlet pass to Sunny Weems for an uncontested dunk. It appeared as if Toronto was running a 3-man weave against no defenders.
Flip Saunders’ infamous quote, “Don’t ever think it can’t get any worse, because it can,” once again depressingly comes to mind. It likely can get worse, but for now, this loss to the Raptors will do as the low point in the Wizards’ season. The league’s 17th ranked offense dismantled a listless and dispassionate Washington team. They were out-hustled for loose balls, lacked any concerned effort in transition defense, and made little attempt to protect the rim.
The team that could have beat the Orlando Magic last Saturday night and competed well with an undermanned squad in Miami on Monday quickly disappeared into one that looked ill-fit to compete at a NBA level.
The facts are hard to ignore as the Wizards fell to 0-9 on the road and 5-12 overall. If not for a Martin off-balanced three and Evan Turner missing two free throws over two home contests against Philadelphia, they would only have three victories. Washington ranks 26th in Defensive Rating and 24th in points allowed.
Young teams will struggle with good teams, and on the road in general, but there is no reason this team should be THIS bad at defense. And it is inexcusable to lay down a half-assed effort against a mediocre team like the Raptors, who were also playing without their big bruiser Reggie Evans. The preseason slogan “Back to Basics” never felt more hollow when a team can’t even consistently run back to prevent a lay-up.
Has Flip lost his magic touch with defense? I know the coaches are coaching, but are the players listening? Which party deserves the blame? Who in the locker room will step up after a dismal showing like this one? If it is Wall, will his other teammates listen and react accordingly? Can Arenas, who I have witnessed first-hand displaying leadership skills, get Blatche to play even average defense? Josh Howard could help lock down opposing wings, but is this roster fundamentally flawed at defense, especially on the interior? Does Wizards management finally deserve some scrutiny about the team makeup?
The Arenas/Wall backcourt has not had enough time together to truly evaluate their potential, and the return of Howard and Yi will help. I just do not know how many of these type of losses fans can swallow before wondering what the hell is going on and what is being done internally to fix it. Cold, out-of-rhythm offense is one thing, consistently disinterested defense is another.