- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2003

TORONTO — As Vince Carter goes, so go the Toronto Raptors.

And yet last night against the Washington Wizards, it was bit players like Jerome Williams and Antonio Davis who pounded the boards to help Toronto beat the Wizards 82-79 at Air Canada Centre.

Carter was huge, too, finishing with a game-high 26 points and seven rebounds. But Williams and Davis provided the key to victory by pulling down 28 boards — one more than the Wizards’ starters — as Toronto held a 49-37 rebounding advantage.

“The effort was there, and we showed a lot of guts and determination,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said after his team fell to 1-1. “But they’re instinctive rebounders. Jerome Williams and Antonio Davis have instincts that make them special in the league. We were making them miss, and they were getting the rebounds, and we weren’t. That’s a credit to them. They had 18 offensive rebounds.”

And the Wizards made the Raptors miss at a staggering rate in the early going. In fact, Toronto was held to just 27 points in the first half, the lowest offensive output for a first half in team history, after missing 12 of its first 13 shots.

That didn’t keep the Raptors from coming back to score 55 points in the second half on 20-for-38 shooting (52.6 percent). That output was mostly the result of getting more second chances than the Wizards, who were 16-for-33 in the second half.

“That was the key to the game right there,” said Washington point guard Gilbert Arenas, who scored 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting and handed out seven assists to go with five of the team’s turnovers. “They got second shots, third shots, fourth shots. We’re getting one or two attempts, and they’re getting four or five.”

After leading for most of the game, the Wizards still had a chance to earn a victory that would have given them their first 2-0 start since 1994-95. With Washington trailing by three points, rookie Jarvis Hayes launched an errant 3-pointer with a little more than nine seconds to go. Of course, the Raptors got the rebound, and the Wizards were unable to foul any of the four Raptors who got their hands on the ball.

“We tried to foul them, but we just didn’t get to them,” Jordan said.

Kwame Brown also had 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the aggressive Raptors.

Jerome Williams added 17 points for Toronto, which made just 38.6 percent of its shots compared to Washington’s 44.3.

A 15-4 run at the start of the fourth quarter, capped by a fast break dunk by Morris Peterson, gave the Raptors their first lead of the game at 67-64 with 8:15 left in the game.

Washington recaptured the lead 79-78 when Etan Thomas put back an Arenas miss. The Raptors called a timeout with 45.3 seconds remaining, and when they came out of it Chris Bosh got a finger roll and Carter hit a pair of free throws to account for the final points of the game.

In their season opener against Chicago, a combination of good Washington defense and horrible shooting by the Bulls resulted in Chicago’s 31.7 shooting percentage. But as bad as the Bulls were, Toronto got off to an even worse start.

The Raptors opened the game missing 11 of their first 12 from the floor and fell behind by 12 points in the first quarter. When the quarter was over, Toronto was just 5-for-25 from the field. The Raptors looked to be a different team from the one that beat defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey in its opening game.

Despite Toronto’s struggles from the floor, Washington did not fully capitalize on the Raptors’ shooting woes and, as a result, saw its lead shrink to 31-27 after Alvin Williams hooked up with Carter for an alley-oop.

But stingy defense shut off the Raptors’ scoring for the remainder of the half, and Washington scored the final six points to lead by 10 at intermission.

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