The Toronto Raptors had not played a true home game in 18 months prior to Wednesday night, where they opened the 2021-2022 season with a 98-83 loss to the Washington Wizards.
Expectations for the Raptors this season are much more subdued than in seasons past, but the thought heading into the home opener was that the Wizards would be a beatable opponent, especially with the home crowd urging them forward.
Washington took control of the game right from the opening tip, getting to the rim and free throw line effectively, despite shooting a paltry 18.5% from three. Bradley Beal got it going early, and the Raptors were unable to generate much of anything on offence, which was a trend that would carry on into the rest of the game. Two abysmal shooting quarters from Toronto led to a 57-31 blowout scoreline at the half, giving the 2019 NBA Champions a lot to think about as they headed down the tunnel. The Raptors played better defensively in the second half and managed to keep the game respectable, but a bulk of that could come down to the Wizards beginning to coast down the stretch with their massive lead in check.
Beal led the Wizards in scoring on Wednesday night, scoring 23 points on 7/18 shooting. It wasn’t his best night, but the early lead allowed for him to take his time and not force as many highly contested shots. Montrezl Harrell went off in his Wizards debut, scoring 22 points off the bench to go along with 9 rebounds. Kyle Kuzma was effective on the night, finishing with a 15-point 11-rebound double-double. Despite the aforementioned struggles from beyond the arc, the Wizards’ ball movement and interior scoring allowed for an offensive attack potent enough to start the year at 1-0.
No one scored more than 12 points for the Raptors on Wednesday, with Scottie Barnes and Fred VanVleet sharing the team high. Barnes was impressive in his NBA debut besides some inconsistencies shooting the basketball, and his line of 12 points and 9 rebounds is something that will excite Raptor fans moving forward. OG Anunoby had one of the worst nights of his career from the floor, shooting 3/17 for 11 points, although he did grab 10 rebounds in the process for a double-double. The Raptors shot 30.9% from the floor and 20.6% from three, which really tells the entire story on why they were dominated on the night.
Despite the struggles overall, it was a positive night for the Raptors Canadian contingent. Rookie Dalano Banton scored his first NBA basket in incredible fashion with a half-court buzzer beater to end the third quarter, and finished with 7 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and a block. Montreal’s Chris Boucher scored 7 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and had 2 blocks in 18 minutes of action, while Khem Birch had an impressive 9-point 9-rebound performance in the season opener.
The loss marks the Raptors second straight season opening defeat after winning 8 in a row previously, and serves as a tough start for a year that may feature several games of the same nature. The Wizards will happily start the year with a win and look to build positive momentum to start their season.
Besides the occasional flash of brilliance from Barnes or Precious Achiuwa, there was not a whole lot for Raptors fans to cheer about on a night that was supposed to be a celebration. They will look to bounce back on Friday night against a tricky Boston Celtics team on the road, while the Wizards will look to keep the good times rolling in their home opener against Indiana on the same day.
Barnes – 12 PTS 9 REB 1 AST
Anunoby – 12 PTS 11 REB 1 AST
Achiuwa – 6 PTS 7 REB 2 AST
Beal – 23 PTS 3 REB 4 AST
Harrell – 22 PTS 9 REB 1 AST
Kuzma – 11 PTS 15 REB 3 AST