Raptors Start Fast, Then Leave Wobbly Wizards in the Dust
Raptors 122, Wizards 83

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2008

TORONTO, Jan. 30 -- People were still settling into their seats at Air Canada Centre when Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan called his first timeout.

One night after the Wizards pulled out an overtime victory over the Raptors in Washington, Toronto opened Wednesday's rematch by building a 12-0 lead.

The Wizards regrouped and drew within five at the end of the quarter but the game's pace was established and it clearly favored the Raptors, who outscored the Wizards 33-18 in the second quarter and cruised to a 122-83 victory.

Playing their second straight game without Caron Butler, the Wizards (24-20) struggled. They shot 36.6 percent while the Raptors shot 56.6 percent and make 13 of 18 three-point shots.

The 39-point margin of defeat was the worst of the season for the Wizards and matched the biggest margin of victory in franchise history for the Raptors (25-20).

"If this had been a game of H-O-R-S-E, it would have been over in the first quarter," Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson said. "They came out like they are supposed to at home after a loss. We said before the game that they play at a faster tempo at home and we just didn't match it and then once they started making shots, they got rolling. They were on fire."

Were they ever.

After shooting 42.5 percent in Tuesday's 108-104 overtime loss at Verizon Center, the Raptors made six of their first eight shots in the game then blew the game open in the second quarter and easily countered anything resembling a Wizards run with a barrage of shots from all angles.

No single Raptor had a huge night but 12 players scored, led by center Andrea Bargnani (19 points). Point guard Jose Calderon played a beautiful floor game (11 points, 11 assists, 1 turnovers). The Raptors had 30 assists to Washington's 13 and the blowout allowed Chris Bosh, who scored 37 points in 50 minutes on Tuesday, to spend the fourth quarter on the bench resting.

"We tried different adjustments and we just didn't get it done," Jordan said. "We just didn't have enough to stop the penetration, we didn't get enough to play the post, we didn't do enough to close out people on the perimeter, and when we did, they still made shots."

Toronto moved one-half game ahead of the Wizards in the Eastern Conference. Stevenson led the Wizards with 16 points while Roger Mason Jr. added 14 and Andray Blatche had 12 in a game Washington never led.

The game played out in similar fashion to the 121-85 loss the Wizards suffered at Cleveland last Wednesday. After winning seven of nine between Jan. 4 and Jan. 21, the Wizards have lost three of five.

It didn't help that Butler, a likely all-star when the reserves are announced Thursday, remained out with a strained left hip flexor. Butler did not make the trip and planned on undergoing treatment with the hope that he may be able to return Friday against Utah.

However, should the injury continue to be a problem, it is possible that Butler could be held out longer.

"I think Antonio [Daniels] said it well the other night," Jordan said. "Why try to get Caron to play the next three games and not the next 40? So, that's certainly more important."

As good as Butler has been, his presence may not have mattered much on a night when the Raptors started hot and pretty much stayed that way. Gilbert Arenas, who hopes to come back sometime after the all-star break, probably wouldn't have made a difference, either.

"Coming in, the one thing we knew we needed to have was a lot of energy and we didn't match their energy," Antawn Jamison said.

"You can ill-afford to have them shoot open shots. It's one thing if the shots are contested, but tonight they were getting open jump shots and they converted on them.

"We knew they were going to come out and try and avenge what happened [Tuesday night]. I was disappointed to not come out and play like I thought we were going to."

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