Open Thread: Toronto Raptors (15-15) at Washington Wizards (14-15)

First up, best wishes to Andrew Thompson who is staring at a hospital ceiling after being in a car accident.  He’s OK.  He was slated to write this pre-game so I’m jumping in on short notice.


The Raptors are in Washington tonight which has historically made for some good nights.  Last time the teams met I was at the ACC and it was all about surviving John Wall, (box) who had 37 points in a rather electrifying game where his full-court pace was in full view.

The Raptors ended up limping their way to the win rather than authoritatively finishing it, but then again those were the Rudy Gay days and this is a different team.   The Raptors have won 9 of 12 and 6 of 7, and the Wizards carry a bit of a streak of their own.  They’ve won 5 of 7 with their last game being a loss in Dallas.  This matchup has ended up being a surprisingly “marquee” one as it’s pitting the 4th and 5th seeds in the East who are separated by just a half game (even in the loss column at 15).

I have John Wall and Martell Webster on my fantasy team so I tend to follow the Wizards a lot, and have a couple keys to stopping them:

Make them pay them for their over-aggressive defense which encourages switching

As per their SBNation blog,

This season, the Wizards have often resorted to switching in order to contain ballhandlers. The idea is for the defense to take advantage of its size and athleticism and to avoid help and recover situations where defenses are most vulnerable. Whether it be through pick and rolls or off-ball movement, players are switching assignments at a stunning rate. Alternatively, they are more aggressively trapping and switching assignments later to compensate for being in rotations.

While it’s often led to turnovers and disrupted the offense’s timing, it’s just as often proven to be a cheap way of avoiding fighting through screens. Ultimately, it leads to mismatches all over the floor.

‘Tis true, they switch on anything.  So if the Raptors see a perimeter matchup that they can exploit, they’ll get the switch they want.  In Beal, Webster, and Wall, the Wizards have good athleticism at the wings and they obviously feel that they can get away with doing so.  I’m fancying a DeRozan/Wall matchup in the post as something to target.

Limit John Wall’s FT attempts

He’s recognized that he’s not a great shooter at this point in his career and his looking to draw the foul on his drives, way more than he’s looking to shoot of late.  The strategy against Wall has been to go under the screens, and that still remains the case.  He’s also been tremendous in the last few games at end-to-end play where, after receiving the pass following the defensive rebound, he’s zipping through the center of the court trying to make something happen, so transition defense is key.

The PG matchup is quite excellent here and I’m hoping Kyle Lowry can really frustrate Wall with his defense enough to influence his offensive game.

Stick with Beal on screens

Last time the Raptors held Beal to 7-21 shooting, and that was a product of some open misses and some good defense.  We can’t take that chance again, and the Raptors have to cover him as the goes through various down and baseline screens to free himself up at the three-point line.  I’d test John Salmons on him so he can’t use his dribble/pull-up as easily as he can against DeRozan.

He’s most dangerous in transition these days where he’s looking to set-up early in the shot-clock, and tends to pull-up in transition if the defense is on its heels.  I would put Salmons on him so DeRozan can guard the less-demanding Webster, if only to preserve DeRozan for offense.

Hold interior position

With Nene and Gortat, the Wizards possess some brute strength which the Raptors will need to be able to handle.  If Jonas Valanciunas can have a repeat of his performance against Roy Hibbert, great.  If not, Amir will really need to bang with some size to keep them out of the paint and limit John Wall’s drives at the same time.  In the last matchup, Casey surprisingly didn’t play Aaron Gray so I’m guessing he should be fine without him today as well.

Make Patterson count

Patterson has a great chance to play the stretch-four proper today if matched up against their starters or if facing Jan Vesely. Patterson’s success from the mid-range area is a direct indicator of how well the team offense is functioning because if he’s getting good mid-range looks, it means there’s penetration and passing are happening.

That’s really all I got on short notice.  The gamblers have the Wiz laying two with an O/U of 197.  As it is Washington, this will be a tight one.

Get better Andrew!

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