More important that anything in this win against Toronto was that the game operations staff at Verizon Center got back on point by playing the iconic and traditional victory song by DJ Class after playing some other nonsense following the Houston win last week. That almost gave me a heart attack, and it was good to see order restored.
In terms of the game itself, the lesson to take is that Toronto played really bad. Coach Jay Triano was upset postgame, even to the point of perplexion. He said on the Raptors broadcast at halftime that his team “played horses---t.” Asked if it got better in the second half: “not really”. The Wizards guards weren’t great defensively and allowed the Raptors into the lane, but JaVale McGee continued to impress in the one area in which he hasn’t struggled by blocking or impacting several shots. Triano singled him out specifically as an impediment to their offensive flow, particularly since they missed several jump shots in the early going. Of course, they missed open jump shots all night, and the shot selection from Toronto was really poor (especially from Linus Kleiza and the usually better Jarrett Jack). Overall, Toronto is a better team than they showed tonight, although not that much better. Leandro Barbosa is expected to return on Friday, but even then they don’t have much in terms of shot selection, and Andrea Bargnani, one time number one overall pick, has been awful in recent weeks (he was pulled tonight late in the game). The one bright spot was Reggie Evans, who is just a beast on the glass and defensively inside, but his offensive limitations are a huge hole for a team that couldn’t buy a shot tonight.
The Wizards deserve credit for jumping on an opponent who didn’t bring any sort of juice or bounce as Triano put it. Arenas really played well, in all categories (except his one on one defense of course, which will never be anything but a major weakness for him). He rebounded very well, which was noticeable, and his assists were high as he had a good rhythm with Kirk Hinrich. His shot was very fluid and in rhythm, particularly in the third quarter after he changed from one pair of Air Jordans into another pair, and hit several long range shots within the offense afterwards. Hinrich played very well in a distributing role, and often found Thornton or Blatche in space towards the basket.
Trevor Booker had some extended minutes again, entering the game near the 3 minute mark of each quarter, but didn’t have the same type of success he had in Chicago. His ability to screen on the ball is very impressive, and that skill alone will lead him to be successful in his minutes on the floor even if he’s not rebounding well (he hasn’t shown a particular knack for tracking down boards as of yet). Kevin Seraphin had his first minutes of his NBA career, and they were not impressive. He did show a good awareness for finding his man on rebounding attempts, particularly defensively, but he was outmuscled a couple times by Joey Dorsey. It will be rare for Seraphin to find a player who can match his strength, and it just so happened that Dorsey and Evans are two players who can. He had a couple nice screens set on the offensive end, and one that was called for an offensive foul. He did not hesitate when he had an open look within the rhythm of the offense, which was good. He’s very unpolished, and it will take much more time to evaluate whether he can actually be a rotational NBA player.
John Wall left the locker room in a walking boot, unsure if he would travel with the team tonight to Boston. I would be very doubtful that he would play against the Celtics, and would instead target Friday or Sunday for his return. He has been playing forty minutes a game so far, and a couple games off could do him some good as long as the foot heals properly. Flying on a foot that needs to have its swelling down isn’t a great idea if he’s not going to play, so I would personally be more comfortable holding him back. While the Wizards stepped on the Raptors throat early, which was encouraging, they will have to fight hard to remain competitive against a Boston team that is much more likely to return the favor to them tomorrow night. Also, the vitriol directed towards Arenas will be as strong as he will face all season, so it will be a good test to see where he is in terms of balancing his mental preparation vs. battling the crowd.
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