It was as if Washington Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. could see the future. Did he know what was coming?
It’s the only explanation for his strange pre-game comments on Sunday.
“Their second unit has actually been pretty good for them,” Unseld said of the Toronto Raptors bench. “We’ve seen them at times throughout the year be impactful.”
Have you, Wes? Coming into Sunday night, Toronto’s bench ranked dead last in the NBA in scoring. They’d averaged 23.9 points per game, over three points worse than the 29th ranked team, the Chicago Bulls, and they'd been outscored by 17 points total for the season.
And yet, on Sunday something seemed to click in Toronto’s 102-90 victory over Washington. The bench came in late in the first quarter before a motley crew of Scottie Barnes, Yuta Watanabe, Dalano Banton, Chris Boucher, and Svi Mykhailiuk went on a 17-8 run to start the second quarter, turning an 11-point Raptors lead into a 20-point blowout from which Toronto never looked back.
"I think they just come out and started flying around," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "There was great connectivity by the first unit, and the second unit kind of picked up on that and fed from that and they were just all locked in, into coverages and talking and communicating, and I just think all four of them brought great energy."
That doesn’t mean it was entirely smooth sailing, though. When Washington went on a bit of a run in the third quarter, pulling to within 12, Toronto’s bench again closed the door on the Wizards. Barnes got to the line for a pair of free throws, Banton and Boucher hooked up for a beautiful pick-and-roll combo, and Banton found Watanabe to snuff out any hope for the Wizards.
"Shout out to all of them. They came in ready to play, execute the game plan, play hard," Pascal Siakam said. "They gave us a huge boost out there and we need that from them."
In total, the Raptors bench outscored the Wizards 34-28 with Boucher tallying 14 points and six rebounds.
"The energy I’m playing with is a little different," Boucher said. "I wasn’t really looking to shoot the ball. If you ask me, I’m a really great roller and usually I finish inside. I just went back to what it is."
Siakam Continues to Kill Wizards
Maybe it’s something about the Wizards that just gets Siakam going. Last year he averaged 30.7 points in his three games against Washington, and he picked up right where he left off on Sunday. As Washington pressured VanVleet, copying the game plan the Memphis Grizzlies presented, Siakam thrived.
After a slow start, missing his first five shots, Siakam stepped into the phone booth and came out All-Star Siakam. He nailed eight straight shots, getting to his spots at all three levels, en route to a stellar 31-point performance on 10-for-21 shooting.
Siakam did offer a slightly different explanation for his breakout performance, though. If it wasn't just the Wizards, it may have been his niece who helped out with a secret formula.
"My brother, he has a kid, my niece, and usually I don't like carrying newborns. I don't know. They're just so fragile," Siakam said. "She's like two months old, and I've been like putting off just picking her up because I'm like, I don't know. And then yeah, yesterday, I picked her up, and yeah! And she peed on me. I don't know. Maybe it was that."
Up Next: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Raptors will have a pair of days off before their homestand continues Wednesday night against the dreadful Oklahoma City Thunder.