Let’s start by saying that last night’s game against the Washington Wizards was one of the most entertaining games of all time in Raptors history. It was the longest Raptors game in history, while the Raptors will be concerned about Terrence Ross and Kyle Lowry and how they came out of this marathon, it was tremendous. Ross left long before this game was over with a turned ankle. Lowry also tweaked an ankle but remained in and fought to the bitter end when he eventually fouled out of this game.
The Raptors were in a sense fighting an uphill battle most of the night. The Wizards last loss was the last time they faced the Raptors which was a hard fought contest that the Raptors would hang on to win. After a rare strong start of a 7-0 run things would get difficult for the Raptors and they would eventually be fighting from behind for a good portion of this game in regulation.
Toronto would get behind by as much as 12 in the third quarter and with Ross already out and the Raptors struggling to keep their heads above water it seemed like it was not meant to be for them on this night. As in the game they won against the Wizards John Wall was proving to be quite the challenge to deal with. Overall the Raptors just looked like they did not have an answer this time around.
DeMar DeRozan would lead his crew all the way back to just 1 point down before the Wizards pushed back to make it a 5 point advantage heading to the fourth. What would go on for the next 27 minutes was a blow for blow battle that would rival any UFC fight. The Raptors had several chances to knock the Wizards out and steal a victory but could not get it done.
The lone issue the Raptors have faced in this post Rudy Gay era is who is going to be the closer for them in tight games. In a couple of games they have went to their All-Star DeMar DeRozan and had some terrible results so in this game they looked to Lowry and he too was unable to deal that knockout punch.
In the end the Raptors lost the battle in a game that took on a life of it’s own at some point. It still does not change my view that Wizards are the perfect team for the Raptors to face in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs and after last night there is a bunch of casual NBA fans that would welcome that series into their lives.
Toronto and Washington are in similar situations with limited playoff experience for their main stars. In fact next to none would be a more accurate statement. As the Raptors did with the Gay trade the Wizards were able to add some depth to their roster prior to the deadline. It showed in this epic war of attrition.
These teams have similarities being built around top level guards with Wall and Beal for the Wizards and DeRozan and Lowry for the Raptors. The Wizards when healthy have the better front court and should have an advantage on the glass. Raptors are the better defensive squad overall in comparison.
We may get to talk about all of this at length in April but I think the Raptors best and most exciting option for a series in the first round of the playoffs was and still is the Washington Wizards. Last night’s epic thriller at the ACC just made more people aware of the match-up and wanting to see it more.
The Raptors finished February with the same 7-5 record they sported last season it is about the only thing similar in comparing the two seasons to this point. Despite the outcome the Raptors should be able to win a series against the Wizards but as it was proven last night that will not be an easy task. Still the excitement and playoff atmosphere at the ACC gave you a taste of what a magical playoff series this could potentially be.
If you’re old enough to remember the epic Vince Carter vs. Allen Iverson battle in the seven game thriller with Sixers it could be that good. While the result of that series is well documented and known for a lot of things it to this day remains one of the best NBA Playoff series I have ever watched. It was thrilling and this new growing rivalry between the Wizards and Raptors could offer the same type of high drama. We can only hope it does at this point.