Photos By: Sol Tucker
Story By: Sol Tucker
There have been quite a few match-ups against the Wizards and the Raptors that were notable for the Wizards. Tonight was certainly one of those not so much and frankly one they would like to forget. The biggest problem tonight, Fred Van Fleet. Yes, this is not the same Raptors team of those playoff battles from a few years back, but Van Fleet is still possibly one of the most under rated players in the NBA.
VanVleet hit 13 of 22 shots for the Raptors, who avenged a 15-point opening night loss at home to the Wizards two weeks ago while running their win streak longer than any last season.
“I’m not taking it for granted,” VanFleet said of this team’s start after a 12th-place Eastern Conference finish in 2020-21. “Did you watch us last year? Yeah, I’m not taking none of this for granted. And that’s the beauty of having a young team. You can enjoy these wins and enjoy the growth.”
For the Wizards, they just could not find the right combination to get the game within striking distance in the final 5:00 of the game tonight.
Bradley Beal did finish with 25 points, but it was the 8 for 32 from 3 point range that became the biggest difference in this game.
Montrezl Harrell added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Wizards, who lost despite leading 23-6 in second-chance points and 40-34 in points in the paint.
One thing the Wizards need to work on that they have struggled with in previous seasons, closing in late games. The Wizards had this game within range with the Raptors up by only 10 in the fourth. Beal hit a pull-up and Harrell sank a leaner to cut it to 103-97 with 3:53 left. VanVleet answered with a running layup, and the Wizards made only one of their last six shots.
“We have to do a better job in closing in late games and not letting teams pull away. We had this game within range as all of you could see with almost 4 minutes left. We just could not shut Fred down and we missed a few key opportunities in the final two minutes,” said Wizards Head Coach Wes Unseld Jr.
If the Wizards had trouble tonight finding a way to stop Van Fleet, what are their answers for Ja Morant and Memphis on Friday night? If Beal can get back on track quickly on Friday, he will probably get the best of Morant, but Morant, like Van Fleet, can put up numbers quickly and we see the final results tonight.