Title: Raptors’ escape of near-collapse in Washington puts Lowry, depth in spotlight
Date: October 20, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic, I wrote about a thinned-out and tired Raptors squad avoiding collapse in Washington, and why that speaks to the bigger-picture goals of this season.
It was nearly a spiritual repeat of Game 4 between these same two teams last postseason. The Toronto Raptors had begun to assert control at Capital One Arena, and the Washington Wizards were not taking it well. Down 10 with seven minutes to play, the Wizards became irate at a non-call as John Wall tripped in transition. Bradley Beal would earn a technical foul and, in protestation, Scott Brooks would receive one and then be politely asked to leave the floor. Kyle Lowry hit a pair of technical free throws, Pascal Siakam split a pair on the ensuing possession, and it looked like the Wizards were ready to close up shop and focus on the arduous road trip ahead.
That’s how it looked a few months back, too, when Beal fouled out of a pivotal playoff game that would have seen the Raptors take a 3-1 series lead. Instead, the Wizards rallied back and took that game decidedly. It makes some sense, considering the Wizards have long under-performed against inferior competition and been at their best when games seem the toughest.
On Saturday, the Wizards had the benefit of fatigue in their corner, too. The Raptors were on the second night of a back-to-back and playing their third game in four nights for the first time this season, an early schedule compression before players may entirely have their legs. They were also without their best player and a key rotation piece. Kawhi Leonard and Delon Wright both stayed back in Toronto, the former as part of an early-season load maintenance program as he works his way to full strength following nine months off and the latter because of an ongoing adductor strain. (The decision for neither to travel was made because of the toll that two flights in 24 hours and two late nights have on the recovery process; it’s not entirely uncommon, and was in fact a regular San Antonio Spurs move.) Washington was once again without Dwight Howard, to be fair, but the Wizards also had a rest advantage and haven’t yet worked Howard into the mix, anyway.