Thursday, December 2, 2010

Washington Wizards 108 at Toronto Raptors 127 - December 1, 2010

After months of anticipation (for me at least), the big winter trip is finally here. Although I'm spending the first couple of weeks in the U.S., I flew to Toronto for one night so I could use Air Canada on the entire ticket. Fortunately, the Raptors were in town so I was able to check out their game against Washington to start the trip off.

Air Canada

It used to be that Air Canada was somewhat more expensive than the U.S. airlines, but with the Delta and Northwest merger followed by the United and Continental hook-up, flight choices from Narita have been reduced and subsequently Air Canada is now price-competitive at times.

This is a boon for me as flying AC allows me to avoid connecting in the States and thus I don't have to endure a lovely TSA inspection. Air Canada also has much newer 777's with individual entertainment systems with a good variety of movies and TV shows (including an episode of Ken Burns' Baseball) which makes the 12-hour journey go by a little quicker.

The flight yesterday was good, the service was professional and conducted with an almost military precision at times. It wasn't friendly, but not rude either. The flight attendants have a job to do and it gets done efficiently, smiles aren't necessary. I don't really care if the service isn't delivered with a cheery attitude, I just want to get to my destination and AC did that yesterday with no problems at all. I'm hoping I get to fly them more often in the future.

Getting From the Airport to the ACC

I stayed at an airport hotel for the night so I needed to get downtown on transit. Fortunately, the Toronto Transit Commission has buses right from the airport to two different subway stations, from where you can easily get to Union Station, where the Air Canada Centre is located. It took less than an hour from my hotel right to the ACC, which was much better than expected as there was no waiting at either of the transfer points. The return ride was just over an hour, which is not bad given that it was late in the evening. Given that each one-way trip is only $3 it sure beats renting a car and looking for parking. If you aren't familiar with the area, use the TTC's trip planner to help you get started.

Air Canada Centre

Originally designed as a basketball-only facility, the ACC was purchased by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd (MLSE) before it was completed in 1999. They changed the original design to make it a multi-purpose arena that now houses the Maple Leafs and the Rock of the NLL.

Located just two minutes from Union Station, the arena has lots of places to explore, but I'll save the details for a Leafs game in the near future.

For the Raptors, tickets down low are expensive, so this is the only shot I took from that area. As I was attending with my cousin Alison, a Raptors fan, we got the very cheap seats ($23) which weren't all bad, as you can see below. Scalpers are around, particularly on the way from Union Station, and you might be able to get a good deal there.

I didn't walk around the arena, as I wanted to catch up with Alison, but I did notice that the posted prices of the food items didn't include the 13% HST. So a $4.65 hot dog is actually $5.25. Of course, if you are smart, you'll be eating at one of the many restaurants in Union Station which are about half the price of the food inside.

The Game

This was a bit of a stinker of paper with the 5-11 Wizards (0-8 on the road) taking on the 6-11 Raptors. The big story for Toronto was the professional debut of 1st-round pick Ed Davis (above), who had been hurt since the pre-season. Chosen 13th overall out of North Carolina, Davis is considered part of the Raptors' future and I was really interested in seeing how his first game would go.

For the Wizards, first-overall pick John Wall (above) was back in the lineup after missing a couple of games due to a bruised knee. So although the game itself didn't look that enticing, it would be a good chance to see two of the league's young stars do battle.

The Raptors started with no intensity and when DeMar DeRozan turned it over on a lazy pass that allowed Washington to take a 4-2 lead, coach Jay Triano immediately called timeout, just a minute into the game. That settled the Raptors and the teams traded baskets for a while in a game devoid of defense but which had lots of cheap fouls.

With the score knotted at 21, DeRozan made a running dunk (above) and that seemed to get the Raptors going. They ended the quarter on a 13-4 run and then Andrea Bargnani took over, scoring 11 points in the first 3 minutes of the second stanza as Toronto built a 47-29 lead which effectively ended the game. Washington never got closer than 14 points as the Raptors put on a clinic, scoring 72 in the first half and 127 for the game, their highest point total in the young season.

Trevor Booker blocked Leonardo Barbosa here

It was an incredibly well-balanced attack by Toronto, with seven players in double figures, led by DeRozan's 20. But the Wizards were downright awful on defense, often standing around and just watching the Raptors make baskets. Certainly Toronto was hot, shooting 32/48 in the first half, but the Wizards complete lack of intensity was surprising. Flip Saunders needs to get that team going; 0-9 on the road is clearly related to motivation rather than talent.

Davis had 11 points in 24 minutes and looked good, while Wall had 19 off the bench for Washington, but most of those were in garbage time.

Davis congratulated by a teammate at game end

All-in-all, not a great game to get the trip started, but it was nice to see a Toronto team win handily for a change. Thanks to Alison for joining me and keeping me awake in that dull second half.


There were 51 fouls in the game which destroyed any flow. That's more than a foul a minute if you are scoring at home. I would expect such a high foul total to be associated with a physical game, but that was not the case, most fouls were really rather lame.

The Raptor, Toronto's mascot, celebrated his 700th game by showing a video of all his bloopers. It was actually pretty amusing to see 15 years of faceplants and other assorted pratfalls and it kept the crowd entertained.

Attendance was listed as 15, 209 but I'd be surprised if there were 10,000 there. Basketball fans are not as stupid as Leaf fans and stay away when the team is not performing well.

The coolest thing about these trips across the dateline is the extended day. On the morning of December 1st, I was in my apartment in Japan where I watched the Leafs lose to Tampa Bay at the ACC. In the evening of December 1st, I watched the Raptors win at the ACC. Except I was actually there. That never gets old.

Next Up

Off to Minneapolis for what may be the worst sports weekend possible. Six games and six crappy teams. Fortunately, my good friend Marcie has just moved there and will join me for the Flames-Wild on Friday night, but I'll have to endure the Cavs-Timberwolves and Bills-Vikings games alone. Check back for updates over the weekend.



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