Wizards simply have more talent than Raptors
Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan faces the music yesterday after getting embarrassed by the Wizards in Game 2. The pivotal Game 3 goes tomorrow in Washington. (Michael Peake/Toronto Sun)
By now, there is little doubt that the Washington Wizards boast a more talented roster than the Raptors.
In John Wall, the team has a legitimate No. 1 overall draft pick — not an Andrea Bargnani or Kwame Brown-level No. 1, a superstar No. 1.
In Bradley Beal, the Wizards have a 21-year-old star in waiting, a potential top-5 shooting guard for a decade to come and a solid No. 3 pick. Otto Porter, another No. 3 pick has been a difference-maker over the first two games, as players selected that high should be. Even ancient reserves Paul Pierce and Drew Gooden were once top-10 selections (Pierce could easily have gone first and with apologies to Dirk Nowitzki is the best player from his class).
The Raptors counter with an excellent No. 5 pick (Jonas Valanciunas) and a stellar No. 9 (DeMar DeRozan) and a mediocre No. 8 (Terrence Ross).
Sure, players like Kyle Lowry (a late first-rounder back in 2006) sometimes break through and become stars, but, generally, the pieces you need to contend come much higher.
As always in the NBA, talent matters. The Wizards have high-end talent, the Raptors do not.
Sometimes you can pull off an upset over a more talented bunch with greater depth, more cohesiveness, more passion and will and more experience.
Aside from the better bench, the Raptors fail in every category and it is troubling them. They might not be as talented, but they should be faring quite a bit better than this.
Not only has Washington been much better — particularly in Game 2 — but it has been much more physical, more combative, more lippy and demonstrative.
Chuck Hayes believes his team is experienced enough, but something is missing, something they desperately need to find.
“The experience is here, right now, we’re lacking the will to win,” Hayes, Toronto’s oldest and longest NBA-tenured player told the Toronto Sun in a morgue-quiet Raptors locker room following Tuesday’s Game 2 throttling.
That prompted the obvious follow-up: After nearly pulling out a hard-fought, seven-game series with Brooklyn a year ago, how can this lack of fight, this lack of competitive spirit be quantified?
“I don’t know how you explain it, you just explain it by our play. You explain it by the way they’re aggressive, and we’re not,” Hayes said.
“We start off fine, but right there in the drag of the game, in the stomach, in the middle, the second and third quarters, too many dry spells, too many ‘my faults’ and ‘my bads’ and that can’t happen.”
Dwane Casey, the team’s hard-nosed, old school head coach sees it too.
“In the playoffs, there’s another level. There’s another level we’ve got to get to where I want to knock somebody on their butt,” Casey said Wednesday, sounding quite a bit like Hayes.
“I want to kick somebody and get up in somebody’s chest. You’re going to knock me on my butt? I’m going to knock you on your butt. That level is what they’re talking about, and that’s what we talked about in the locker room. I think that’s what they’re talking about more than not playing hard. We got back in transition, but we’re kind of looking around. We’re there, but we’re not there.”
Exactly. The Raptors are on the court, just like the Wizards, but they aren’t bringing the same things to the table that their more confident opponents are.
“Nene is grabbing us, bear hugging us and denying us at half court? Get him off of you,” Casey said, almost exasperatedly. “You might have to take a foul and get him off your body. Those are the type of things that I relay to them, as far as that next level of intensity.”
After Game 2, Casey had said he knows his team can do better, can dish out hard fouls, make their opponents pay for “waltzing” into the paint, “waving at us and laughing at us going to the basket.”
When the game was over, as he talked to the team, Casey challenged the Raptors to match the Wizards.
That’s all well and good and Casey and Hayes are bang on in their assessments, but maybe these just aren’t the right horses. Sure, Kyle Lowry took a charge on the first Washington possession of the game and tried to be his usual, ornery self. He can compete in the playoffs the way you need to, but the referees aren’t letting him play physically so he has been spending most of his time on the bench. Who else of the regulars is a chippy, contact-loving competitor? Tyler Hansbrough, Lou Williams, Jonas Valanciunas might have some of that, but it’s not apparent all the time and too many of the others lack the win at all costs mean streak that is part of the package required to win games in the post-season.
“I think the most alarming thing we’ve seen was just our sense of urgency,” was how Williams put it.
“It’s not really one thing we can pinpoint, I think we didn’t play with the energy we needed to, we didn’t play with the sense of urgency in the situation that we were in, being down 1-0 at home. I felt like we should have competed harder. Games like that don’t really come down to Xs and Os, it comes down to guys just wanting to win, and competing. I think they just did a better job than we did.”
If that continues, there won’t be another game played at the ACC until October.
If you are going to go out, at least go out with some fight.
Hayes thinks the team will, and so does DeRozan.
“We have the pieces,” Hayes told the Sun. “We have the reinforcements to get ourselves out of a hole.”
“You’re down 0-2, you’ve got to be a little concerned,” added DeRozan.
“Hopefully we respond to it the appropriate way. Obviously our backs are against the wall here, there’s no secret about that, and hopefully we respond in a way that’s going to be beneficial to us instead of going the other way and just floating.”
From Vince Carter to Bargnani to Ross and Co., Toronto has seen far too much floating.
Adapt. Or perish.
WATCHING REPLAY OF GAME JUST PAINFUL
The Raptors didn’t need to pay to see a horror film on Wednesday morning, they viewed an extremely scary sight for free.
Not surprisingly, the second viewing of Game 2 didn’t look any better than it had in real time. It was scary, it was ugly, and head coach Dwane Casey was stunned by the grisly details.
“Defensive breakdowns,” was how Casey summed up the tape.
“It told us that we had 17 blow-bys which creates a whole multitude of problems (because the Wizards break down the defence far too quickly and either get to the hoop or set up open shots when the help comes).
“Offensive rebounds, fouls, help not getting their enough, draw-and-quick for threes. That’s No. 1, contain, contest has got to be our mantra going into the next game,” he said.
“Second is rebounding once the shot does go up, find a body.
Our pick-and-roll defence, we didn’t impact the ball with our shows as well as we have been doing all year and some of our good guys — Tyler, Pat, Amir, usually you put the blame on (Jonas Valanciunas), but it wasn’t J.V.. It starts on the ball, that’s the first issue.”
The Raptors simply cannot guard one-one-one (besides Terrence Ross and Kyle Lowry) and that leads to multiple issues.
Casey had mused about throwing in more zone defences for the playoffs, but we have not seen those looks yet. It might be time, given the defensive troubles this group has.
On the bright side, Casey said Lowry is fine, nursing only a bruise on his shin. He got some treatment Wednesday and is expected to be ready to provide a bounce-back effort in Washington on Friday.
Lowry said Washington’s length has bothered him, as well as their aggressiveness.
“They are sending two guys at our guards, taking the ball out of our hands really quickly,” Lowry explained.
“I’m not getting clean looks right now and I even missed a couple of free throws. I can’t dictate my game on just offence, I can’t even stay on the floor, I need to find a way to stay on the floor.”