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10 things: Balanced attack lifts Raptors to easy win over Wizards

William Lou
·NBA reporter
·7-min read

Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 137-115 win over the Washington Wizards.

One — Breeze: The Raptors were in control from start to finish, even though there were a few lulls that kept it close. The Wizards are one of the worst defenses in NBA history, and their offense isn’t much better. They are a disorganized mess from top to bottom, and it just takes a professional effort by a good team to get by them. The Raptors kept the Wizards at an arm’s distance the entire way, and closed out strong in the fourth quarter for the easy blowout. The Raptors had seven players score in double-digits and shot a scorching 19-of-32 from deep, and they have a better offensive rating (113.2) than the Los Angeles Lakers (112.6) for seventh-best in the league.

Two — Consistent: Norman Powell is stuck on automatic. Every shot for him is coming within the flow of the offense, and he is taking every opportunity presented to him. He’s so hot that even when he tries to pass — such as on his fast break lob to a streaking Pascal Siakam — that it still ends up as another bucket on his tally. Powell has scored 17 or more in 11 of his past 12 games, shooting better than 50 percent from the field and 47 percent from three. If Powell can continue this streak tomorrow against the Celtics, a team that has historically had his number, then there should be no doubt over Powell’s place on the team, even after his shaky start to the season.

Three — Decision: OG Anunoby was upgraded to questionable before being ruled out for the eighth-straight game. Nick Nurse has a tricky decision to make when Anunoby returns. He can either change the starting five with Anunoby replacing the perpetually struggling Aron Baynes, or he can send Powell back to the bench and hope he remains as productive in a sixth man role. Baynes gives the Raptors more rebounding and a bigger body to throw at opposing centers, but it just wouldn’t feel right to send a red-hot Powell to the bench instead of their least productive rotation player. Besides, the original starting five with Baynes has been outscored on the season, whereas the small-ball group is a slight positive.

Four — Balance: Pascal Siakam is starting to resemble the best version of himself that earned him an All-Star berth at the start of last season. Siakam is still living in the paint, but on the heels of his five threes against the Grizzlies, Siakam drilled another three treys and a couple of midrange jumpers in addition to doing his usual damage in the paint. The best version of Siakam attacks with a clear list of priorities. First and foremost, he needs to impact the paint through post ups and slashing in transition. Second, when the double teams inevitably come, Siakam needs to kick it out quickly. And when both are working, there will be more than enough chances for Siakam to pull-up and shoot the jumper. Tonight was a perfect example of Siakam playing with balance.

Five — Ginger: It was smart for Kyle Lowry to take it easy after suffering from a bout of back spasms. There were no daredevil drives to the basket or stepping in for crunching charges. Lowry simply picked his spots, got free from deep around screens, used his strength to create separation to shoot his layups, and was alert as ever on defense without gambling or reaching. Lowry was also instrumental in keeping track of Bradley Beal, sticking with him through screens and leading him towards a crowd of Raptors defenders, and the league’s leading scorer finished with a harmless 24 points on 8-of-20 shooting.

Six — Thriving: Chris Boucher continues to excel, finishing with 17 points and 15 rebounds in 25 productive minutes off the bench. Boucher had some trouble in the first half against a much bigger assignment in Robin Lopez, but the Wizards curiously went away from Lopez in favor of a center-less lineup, and Boucher capitalized by being the biggest and most active player on the floor. There is a case to be made that Boucher should enter the starting five, but that hardly matters as Boucher is almost always on the floor to close out games in the fourth.

Seven — Steady: DeAndre’ Bembry just continues to impress as a two-way player off the bench. Bembry has taken on secondary ball-handler responsibilities when one of Lowry or Fred VanVleet rest, and unlike many other bench players, Bembry just keeps it simple by reading the defense and making the right play. Bembry also knocked down both his threes, and is up to 7-of-12 for the season, which is admittedly an insignificant number of attempts, but it is also promising considering that Bembry is a career 28 percent shooter from deep. If the can get that part of his game down consistently, there is no reason for Bembry to not be in the rotation. He is definitively ahead of both Terence Davis and Matt Thomas as the fourth guard in the rotation.

Eight — Trust: The Raptors finally have something close to a full rotation, as evidenced by their 10-5 response to their 2-8 start. There are four starters (Lowry, VanVleet, Anunoby, Siakam) who can be trusted to produce on both ends, Powell is on fire at the moment, Boucher is great so long as the matchup isn’t overwhelming, Bembry is solid every time out, and Nurse can still choose from Yuta Watanabe and Stanley Johnson as defensive specialists. The only real weakness remains at center, where Baynes continues to be underwhelming, although that can be remedied at the trade deadline. Of course, the front office could go an entirely different direction if the rumors about moving Lowry are credible, but there is also a case to fortify this current group. There are still another six weeks until the trade deadline, so it is very much a wait-and-see scenario.

Nine — Quiet: Nurse was on his best behavior following his unintentional ejection against the Grizzlies. Nurse is usually all over the officials, pleading for every call from a deep squat at the scorer’s table, and he makes a new meme every week with his comically flabbergasted expressions. But today, there was hardly a time where Nurse even got off his chair, settling instead for a calm and muted reaction to the game. The only time he went at the officials was to signal for a coach’s challenge, which he won to erase what would have been three erroneous free throws. Perhaps it was just the Wizards, who practically beat themselves, or maybe Nurse is having a change of heart after being slapped for technicals on a nightly basis.

Ten — Sad: It’s always difficult to see great players in decline, especially when they’re still chasing what used to make them great. Russell Westbrook was almost point shaving in the first half, making the wrong play every time he got the ball, and forcing things that just weren’t there. He settled down in the second half and made a few jumpers, but he was also the Wizards’ worst defender by some distance, which isn’t easy considering how low the bar already is. Westbrook is shooting the worst percentage of his career and averaging five turnovers per game, but what’s most worrisome is the approach. He is somewhere between the last years of Allen Iverson in Denver, and what was left of A.I. in Detroit. Washington is 2-13 with Westbrook, and 4-3 without him.

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