Raptors make it hard on themselves but come away with fifth consecutive win

WASHINGTON — A game that seemed wrapped up in the very early stages turned out to be anything but for the Toronto Raptors on Sunday afternoon.

With Washington preparing to head to London later in the evening for the NBA’s annual England excursion (the game will be played Thursday), the Wizards came out looking like they already were mentally on their way overseas.

The game remained that way for most of 3 1/2 quarters before Bradley Beal, the lone Wizards player showing any push-back, got red-hot and brought his club all the way back to even forcing overtime against the Raptors.

It took two extra frames before Toronto finally got a lead it could hang on to with Serge Ibaka draining a three-pointer with 15.2 seconds remaining in the second overtime as the Raptors went on to a 140-138.

“We are lucky to get out of here (with a win),” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse admitted. “I’m not going to stand here and say it was any … I mean we fought hard at the end. We made a big shot at the very end and we get lucky to get out of here.”

The game certainly took its toll in the health department, although every member of the Raptors who had to leave the contest with a knock eventually made their way back in.

“I’m not sure it was super physical game, but it was a collision game,” Nurse said. “Both teams playing really hard, lots of open-floor play and lots of spacing and lots of transition, so there were a lot of collisions out there. Luckily for us this is just the third time all year we get two days before we play again and we’re going to need them.”

First Kawhi Leonard had to leave midway through the third quarter with some tightness behind his knee that needed stretching out.

Then with Leonard still out, Norm Powell took a Jeff Green elbow to the head and stayed down hoping the officials would take a second look at it. They didn’t and no foul was called leaving Powell with his bell wrung and not much more.

Danny Green was on the receiving of a Tomas Satoransky tackle late in the second overtime. With Green down, Satoransky dove at him to foul him and stop the clock. Green got up and made one of two free throws, giving the Wizards one more crack at it with 2.7 seconds left.

This time it was Kyle Lowry stepping in front of Beal as the Wizards threw the deep ball to the hottest player on the floor in a last-gasp effort. Lowry wound up breaking up the play but paid the price as he went down hard as the final horn sounded.

“I don’t know what happened, but I know that I broke up the pass,” Lowry said. “That’s all that really matters.”

Leonard shook off his leg tightness to put up a team-high 41 points but it was the rebounds — finished with 11 — he pulled down, particularly the one’s late in the game that caught Lowry’s attention.

“Just some unbelievable rebounding, strong-man stuff,” Lowry said of Leonard’s work on the boards. “He did some strong-man stuff.”

Toronto held a 23-point lead just a little less than four minutes into the second quarter. Washington whittled that lead down to three with 11.5 seconds left in the game when Beal hit one of his six three-pointers to force the first overtime.

Beal wound up scoring 43, pulling down 10 rebounds and adding 15 assists but needed to play 55 of the 58 minutes in the game to do so.

Suffice to say Beal will probably spend a good portion if not all of the team’s flight to London resting up.

TIME FOR ANSWERS

CJ Miles will spend the next few days getting some answers about a sore right hip that has been bothering him since training camp.

The hip issue doesn’t appear to be going away so the team has arranged for him to see a specialist in Boston where Toronto will be for the next three days and then perhaps another specialist after they get back to Toronto.

“Miles has been struggling,” coach Nurse said before the game. “We tried to give it a go the other night and it just wasn’t right. We’ll try to see if we can get him a little more squared away in terms of what is actually wrong with him.”

In a brief chat after the game Miles said that while the hip hasn’t gotten any worse it’s at the point where it’s preventing him from doing the things he needs to do on the court to get back to the player he was a year ago.

WIZARDS TRAJECTORY TOUGH TO EXPLAIN

The Wizards learn they will be without their starting point guard for at least the remainder of the season and they get better? That’s not how it is supposed to work but the results of late don’t lie.

The team is coming off a five-game stretch against elite NBA competition and they have wins over Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City and a near win over the Raptors to show for it.

“We’re taking steps in the right direction,” veteran forward Trevor Ariza said after the game. “Obviously, tonight was a tough one. We wanted to win this one, we had opportunities to win this one, but we’re getting better every day. We’re paying attention, we’re playing harder.”
Nurse took a shot at explaining how a team gets better after losing one of its marquee stars.

“I’ve always liked Satoransky,” Ariza said of Wall’s replacement at point guard. “He brings a different feel, a different energy. They have a plethora of wing players, all of them good, all of them experienced. Brad (Beal) is playing great. I just think they have a really nice crew here that is moving the basketball and getting it up the floor a little quicker and playing very, very well.”

QUICK HITS

The 17 points by Delon Wright were a season high for the Raptors point guard and a continuation of some fine play from the Utah product over the past week and a half or so … Pascal Siakam’s 19 rebounds Sunday were a career high breaking his old mark of 15 set against the 76ers in Philadelphia earlier this season … Rather than head home, the Raptors went straight to Boston on Sunday night and will enjoy a day off there Monday before returning to practice on Tuesday in advance of Wednesday’s much-anticipated game against the Celtics … Lowry will gladly take the day off Monday after putting in a 50-minute night on Sunday.

FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED

Kawhi makes it look easy

Despite spending the bulk of the early afternoon driving the basket, Kawhi Leonard did not get his first trip to the free throw line until the eight-minute mark of the third quarter. Despite that, he still finished with 41 points on 15-of-29 shooting, including 3-of-6 from distance. Leonard rarely complains about the lack of calls but one can only imagine how much he’d be scoring if he was actually getting the benefit of the whistle like every other superstar in the league.

Norm takes a beating

Norm Powell is becoming a magnet for elbows to the head and none of them seem to be drawing the expected foul calls. Jeff Green got him on Sunday in Washington. Powell also took heavy shots in the loss in San Antonio and in Milwaukee. Powell said he stayed down on this one hoping the officials would at least give it a second look, but to no avail.

Don’t sleep on Siakam

It seems with each and every passing game, Pascal Siakam’s bid for most improved player in the NBA gets another boost. Sunday in Washington he was going point for point most of the afternoon with Leonard before the veteran forward started to pull away in the fourth quarter. But not even Leonard could match Siakam’s work on the boards. His 19 rebounds were a career high and a team high for the season.

Beal makes his case

If there are 12 better players in the Eastern Conference than Bradley Beal right now, we haven’t seen them. Beal, particularly since John Wall went down but also on plenty of occasions before that, has proven himself to be all-star worthy. His triple-double on Sunday, his second of the year with at least 40 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists, makes him the only player in league history besides the great Oscar Robertson to have two such games in the same season.

In high theft mode

When Toronto’s defence is at its best it is generating steals in huge numbers. On Sunday the Raptors had 16, two off their season high set five days earlier against Atlanta. The thing about the Raptors’ high-steal games is they are always a fully shared team stat. Against the Wizards six different Raptors had two or more.

mganter@postmedia.com