Wizards slam brakes on Raptors’ feel-good vibes

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Terrible out of the gate and then equally bad for long periods throughout the remainder of the night, the Raptors never seemed to get on top of this game.

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Yes, they had stretches where they made the host Wizards look out of their element, but on the whole this was a night that exposed more of what is wrong with the Raptors than what is right.

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A 119-108 loss has brought Washington even with the Raptors for ninth in a very bunched-up sixth-through-12th spots in the competitive Eastern Conference.

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With just 18 games remaining after this one, every game is meaningful, which only makes the Raptors performance in this one that much more disappointing.

The issue for Toronto almost all night was dealing with Washington’s front-court size.

With Daniel Gafford (6-foot-10), Kristaps Porzingas (7-foot-3) and Kyle Kuzma (6-foot-9) in the lineup, size was always going to be an issue but the combination of Kuzma bombing away from the perimeter and the other two big men doing their damage at the rim proved too much for the visitors.

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Toronto’s defence has been improved of late and the team did well to limit Bradley Beal in this one, but they didn’t appear to have many answers for Washington’s length.

The early minutes of the game set the tone for the night in a few ways. The 10-0 run by the Wizards was the start of a series of runs by both teams, this one with all the damage done by Kuzma, who was a perfect 4-for-4 for 10 points to start the game while the Raptors missed their own first 10 shots.

That opening stretch also established the kind of night it was going to be for Kuzma, who dominated for much of the night finishing with a game-high 28 points in addition to five assists and five rebounds.

Porzingas wasn’t far behind with 23 and five rebounds of his own.

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Gafford, the least known of the three Washington bigs, had 18 and five boards.

If containing those three wasn’t Toronto’s biggest challenge of the night, then it was finding the bottom of the basket at the other end.

A lot of that grief dealing with those Washington bigs could have been offset with even a decent three-point shooting night, but that was not in the cards for the Raps.

Toronto was good on just 9-of-33 attempts including just 2-of-11 from distance from Fred VanVleet, who seemed to be finding his shot after some early-season struggles.

The Wizards, not normally a team that relies on its three-point game for much, had the opposite kind of night, going off for 14 makes on their 30 attempts.


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With VanVleet struggling from distance and Pascal Siakam having trouble dealing with all that size in the paint, the offence fell to O.G. Anunoby and newcomer Jakob Poeltl.

Anunoby, for the second game in a row, was back to being his old aggressive self after a period of re-acclimation to the speed and conditioning the game requires following a month-long injury absence.

Anunoby led all Toronto scorers with 26 including four-of-nine makes from three, the only threat from that range in a Raptors uniform all night.

Poeltl continues to impress at both ends of the floor. He had 23 points and pulled down 13 boards in an effort that deserved a better outcome.

Gary Trent Jr., the odd man out of the starting five with the arrival of Poeltl, had his first real off night since moving to the bench.

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Like VanVleet, the basketball was just not falling for him Thursday night as he finished with just four points in 18 minutes.

The lone source of offence coming from the bench was provided by Chris Boucher. The Canadian big man had 12 points in just 13 minutes in an otherwise tough night for the entire Toronto bench.

The onus now moves to the coaching staff with practice and a shootaround before they get a chance to turn the tables on the Wizards in the second of this mini two-game series.

Clearly, adjustments are going to have to be made, particularly when it comes to dealing with Washington’s length. A better answer for their zone defence will also go a long way.

The two teams meet again Saturday in a 5 p.m. tipoff with the Raptors on their way west and a time zone away after that game for three more on this trip in Denver and L.A. where they will face both the Clippers and the Lakers.

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