The Toronto Raptors knew they had one more chance when John Wall’s second consecutive free throw clanked off the iron. Down 82-81 to the Washington Wizards in a heated Eastern Conference affair, reserve point guard Cory Joseph, a UT alumnus, would end up being the unlikely hero for the Raptors on Saturday night.
With 3.8 seconds on the clock, the Raptors were inbounding the ball from the sideline to prepare for their final shot. Power forward Luis Scola set a screen to create space for former All-Star DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan caught the inbounds pass and drove to the hoop guarded by Ramon Sessions of the Wizards.
DeRozan noticed that another Wizards defender, Garrett Temple, was crashing in on him. That would leave one Raptor wide open in the corner for a game-winning shot — Cory Joseph.
The former Longhorn ranks sixth on the Raptors in scoring, averaging 9.3 points per game. Many NBA teams prefer to place the ball in the hands of their superstar or leading scorer at the end of the game, but DeRozan instead decided to play the percentages on this play.
Joseph only shoots 33.3 percent from three-point range, but a wide-open three was the ideal shot for Toronto opposed to a contested layup. Joseph has shot 42.9 percent on three-point shots when the nearest defender is within four to six feet of him. When a defender is within two feet of DeRozan, he shoots a similar 45.5 percent on all field goals. But when DeRozan drew a second defender, the percentage of converting the layup would likely decrease. He passed up a good shot for a greater one, despite the distance.
Joseph caught the ball, aligned his feet and released the ball to sink his first career game-winning shot as the final horn sounded. It was a well-drawn up play by the Raptors, and by playing the percentages, they were able to leave Washington with a victory.