Game Notes: Toronto vs. Washington
-As soon as I arrived to the arena, I saw a press release from the Toronto Raptors indicating that guard/forward Hassan Adams had been traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for cash considerations and a future second round pick. When I spoke to Raptors forward Chris Bosh after the game, he had this to say about Adams: “He was a great teammate, a great friend, so I was disappointed he was leaving, but I don’t want to be selfish and I know he wants more playing time, so this is good for him.” Unfortunately, The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Adams was later waived. My colleague Ryan McNeill, who covers the Raptors for Hoops Addict, will have more on this later.
-Also before the game, Coach Jay Triano revealed that Raptors forward Jamario Moon flew home to Alabama to witness the birth of his child. Triano joked, “I told him he could witness the birth, but he couldn’t babysit.” Moon is expected to be back in the lineup for Friday’s game against the Grizzlies. Forward Joey Graham got his first start of the season as a result of Moon’s absence, and he had a solid performance of five points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes of play.
-It was my intent to speak with Chris Bosh for a few minutes before I heard Raptors coach Jay Triano give his pre-game press conference. Instead, I ended up skipping Triano because Bosh was holding court for myself and about six other journalists. He spoke about his decision to wear a bulkier knee brace, the explosiveness of Dwyane Wade, the competitiveness of the Olympic Dream Team, press conferences and the confidence of Andrea Bargnani. Despite the fact that he had just arrived in the locker room about five minutes before the media descended on him, he was extremely gracious with his time.
-Speaking of Bosh, usually at the Verizon Center when the best player on the opposing team is introduced, they receive both boos and a standing ovation out of respect. When Bosh was introduced tonight, the crowd neither booed nor cheered, and that’s probably because the rest of the country still does not know just how good Bosh is. Perhaps Bosh should do more YouTube videos to insure that his name is known all around the country.
-Coach Tapscott mentioned before the game that DeShawn Stevenson had gotten some kind of shot in his lower back, and they anticipated him being out of action for 10-14 days. Tapscott mentioned that this leaves a big hole in his rotation, since Stevenson guarded the opposing teams best guard/forward, occasionally played point guard, and did the little things for the Wizards, even when his shot refused to fall. Tapscott also confirmed what former Wizards coach Eddie Jordan mentioned before he got fired, which was that Stevenson has been playing hurt all year; however it was more important to him to push through it and be there for his team.
-Coach Tapscott let the media in on some of his coach philosophy prior to the game. He mentioned that he looks at the season in seven game intervals as a way to motivate his team. He said sometimes it backfires as it did in December when he went 0-for-7, and other times it is encouraging like during this current seven game stretch when his team is a slightly improved 3-4. He stressed that when you’re dealing with a seemingly insurmountable deficit the way the Wizards are at 7-27, it helps to break the season down into seven game mini-seasons.
-Tapscott mentioned that both the Toronto Raptors and the Orlando Magic, who the Wizards played the night before, have similar philosophies in that they have one great post player (Orlando has Dwight Howard, Toronto has Bosh) and a bunch of great three-point shooters who force you to guard them. Last night, they kept Howard relatively in check (15 points, 16 rebounds), but they allowed the Magic to hit 10 three-pointers. Tonight, the Wizards limited Bosh to 18 points on 5-of-16 shooting, but they allowed the Raptors to shoot 50% from the three point line (8-of-16).
-All-Star Antawn Jamison had both a night to remember and a night to forget. On one hand he got his 6000th career rebound and he scored a season-high 32 points. On the other hand, he was the only consistent player on the Wizards side tonight, and he ended up fouling out of the game. After the game Jamison said, “I get paid to play hard, night in and night out. No matter what the circumstances are, I am going to continue to do that. Of course, we’re accustomed to a certain type of success around here, and it’s tough right now, but things like this only make you better in the future. During the course of your career, there are always obstacles placed in your path. This has been one giant obstacle, but we have to fight. This is when your character shows when things aren’t going well.”
-Coming into this game, all I heard was that Raptors center Andrea Bargnani was an inconsistent, non-aggressive player. Some games he would look like an All-Star; the next game, he’d be non-existent and eventually on the bench. Tonight, Bargnani was simply dazzling. He shot 8-for-9 from the field, including 4-of-5 from three-point line, and he was perfect from the free throw line (5-for-5). It seemed like every time the Wizards would make a run, Bargnani was right there to counter with a big shot. After the game, Coach Triano was quick to praise not only Bargnani’s efforts during this game, but over the last few games overall: “I think that over the last six or seven games, he has been playing very well and he has been getting into a rhythm. He and Chris (Bosh) are also looking for each other a lot more and that is going to help both of them. I think a good example of this was tonight when he made a cut to the basket and Chris found him for a really nice play. I think that they are becoming familiar with one another and they are starting to gel.”
-The trio of Anthony Parker, Jason Kapono and Will Solomon really won this game for the Raptors. The three of them shot a combined 60% from the field (17 for 28), and they scored 41 of the team’s 99 points. Solomon did a great job of pushing the ball up the court; Kapono did a great job of stretching the Wizards’ defense; and Parker just consistently knocked down the open shots. Given that Jermaine O’Neal, Jose Calderon and Moon averaged a combined 34 points a game, they more than made up for their respective absences. The one negative was that Solomon was limping noticeably after the game with a calf injury.
-Aside from Antawn Jamison who gave a yeoman effort, the rest of the Wizards seemed to be feeling the effects of the previous night’s game against the Orlando Magic. Prior to the game, Coach Tapscott mentioned that he would give the team the day off, if they were able to pull this game out, but they simply could not do it. I was surprised that Tapscott did not go to Juan Dixon and JaVale McGee considering that they are both high energy guys. Tapscott explained that McGee did not matchup well with the Raptors big men, since they both play inside and out, and McGee is primarily a low post defender. Dixon did not play because Javaris Crittenton (three points, and six assists) was playing well. Still, I firmly believe that given the lethargy the Wizards displayed, it would have been worth at least trying McGee and Dixon for a few minutes.
-There is one stretch of basketball in the early fourth quarter that epitomized the substandard effort of the Wizards.
At one point in the third quarter after a missed shot, all five Wizards stood around and let Will Solomon get the rebound, and then dribble the ball back out to the top of the key. Then after a few passes, Solomon got the ball and dribbled right through the Wizards’ defense for an uncontested layup. I immediately looked at Coach Tapscott, and he had his face in his hands.
-Tonight’s game against the Raptors was the first of eight games for the Wizards against losing teams. Given that they are only 7.5 games behind Milwaukee for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, it was not totally inconceivable that they they could make up some significant ground. That combined with the news that Gilbert Arenas has stepped up his workouts, provided the Wizards with some motivation, but tonight’s effort had to leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouths.
-Stay tuned for my next installment of game notes on Saturday, when the Wizards take on the Charlotte Bobcats. Also stayed turned for my article on Chris Bosh.
Final score: Raptors 99 – Wizards 93
Photo Credit: ICON Sports Media