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Pre-game news & notes: VanVleet available for Game 2, Brooks calls Lowry a ‘volume winner’

BET ON YOURSELF.

It’s finally here! After what’s felt like an eternity, it’s time for Game 2. These two-day breaks sit a lot better with the team after a victory than a loss, at least, and they have the chance to go up 2-0 in a series for the first time in Toronto Raptors history. To do so, they’re preparing themselves for a Washington Wizards opponent that should be as hungry as the Raptors have historically been while in a one-game hole.

“Everybody here talked about our history in Games 1, made a big deal out of it, so we’ve got to remember and use that and think about how we came out in Game 2,” Dwane Casey warned at shootaround. “Usually, like gangbusters and ready to compete. They’re going to do the same thing and we got to meet the same physicality, same energy, same speed with our speed and play in a desperate mode as we did in Game 1.”

The Wizards did not sound like a team feeling the urgency at shootaround, though. John Wall straight-up downplayed the idea, because the Raptors are the home side and won Game 1, and that the Wizards still have an opportunity here to steal home-court advantage before heading to Washington. It’s a long series, even if Game 1 felt like a pretty big win.

Game 2 tips off at 7 on NBA TV (Pete Pranica, Greg Anthony, Jared Greenberg) and TSN on TV and on TSN 1050 on radio. You can check out the full game preview here. Your officials are Mike Callahan, Courtney Kirkland, and Tom Washington.

Required reading
Here’s what you need ahead of Game 2, assuming you haven’t been keeping up.

Raptors updates
Fred VanVleet is available for Game 2. To clarify the timeline from the last little while, VanVleet’s big-picture timeline has always been day-to-day, while his status for each individual game has been either questionable or doubtful, and Dwane Casey calling him a game-time decision isn’t a status change so much as a timing note. They all refer to slightly different measures of an injury, and the only real change was VanVleet being dropped from questionable to doubtful after Monday’s practice. And hey, here he is!

That he’s back here is a great development and specifically for their second unit. His minutes were spread across Norman Powell, Delon Wright, and Kyle Lowry in Game 1, and this probably means the end of Powell’s time in the playoff rotation until an adjustment is necessary down the line. Whether VanVleet plays his full normal 20 minutes will probably be a matter of game flow and how he and Wright – who had a great Game 1 – both look. It could also mean fewer minutes for Lowry, who played the full fourth quarter on Saturday.

Here’s a quick look at how Raptors defenders did while working as the primary defender on a Wizards. Take these with a tablespoon of salt. You want a negative number in the “Pts Diff” columns if you’re a defender and a number under 100 in “Deterrent.” It’s a mixed bag, as you’d expect in a one-game sample. VanVleet should factor in here, as he did a reasonably good job on Bradley Beal in the regular season and could be tasked with picking John Wall up full court to slow him down or at least frustrate him.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
TBD: None
OUT: None
INACTIVE: Malachi Richardson, Alfonzo McKinnie

Wizards updates
Washington head coach Scott Brooks hinted at potential lineup changes at shootaround. If he’s making them, he didn’t tip his hand here. And it’s not like he’d have many options since his team only runs about eight deep – the faith in Ian Mahinmi seems to be shaken, Tim Frazier only got a moment in Game 1, and it’s unclear if Ty Lawson is ready to be thrust into action (Lawson looks to be in really good shape, for what it’s worth, and Brooks noted countering VanVleet’s presence with speed in particular). It’s more likely that Washington’s tweaks come within the same eight- or nine-man group, likely with an effort to limit the minutes where both John Wall and Bradley Beal are off the floor together.

Here’s a look at the same defensive matchup chart from above but for the Wizards.

PG: John Wall, Tomas Satoransky, Tim Frazier, Ty Lawson
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre
PF: Markieff Morris, Mike Scott, Jason Smith
C: Marcin Gortat, Ian Mahinmi
TBD: None
OUT: Jodie Meeks
INACTIVE: Ramon Sessions, Chris McCullough

Pre-game news and notes

  • John Wall sure had some thoughts on his 50-percent free-throw rate in Game 1, thinking the fourth-most free-throw attempts of any player in Game 1 was too few. I don’t think either side really had the high ground in terms of officiating quality, but this is what star players and coaches do in the playoffs in an attempt to psychologically prime the next group of officials to be aware of certain calls or non-calls.
    • Scott Brooks and Bradley Beal also had an issue with some of the Raptors’ clutching and grabbing, though Brooks put some of the blame on the Wizards for not moving the defense enough.
  • More notable than Wall’s free-throws was that he got 10 looks at the rim. He only went 2-of-10, and a better number there could have been a disaster for Toronto. The Raptors are well aware, as Dwane Casey noted:
    • “That’s a lot. That’s way too many. Again, how many dribbles did it take for him to get there? Two dribbles to the rim, one dribble to the rim, straight line drives, it’s difficult. We look at that as much as anything else. He’s been out for a while. We understand that. But that’s way too many times getting to the rim, especially with a limited number of dribbles.”
  • Brooks was asked about allowing the Raptors to go 16-of-30 from outside, and it doesn’t sound like Washington is going to drastically change their approach. He sounded unhappy with the amount of looks C.J. Miles and Serge Ibaka got, but they seem content to see if OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam can beat them consistently:
    • “They made their shots. C.J.’s a great 3-point shooter. We gave him too many open looks. Serge Ibaka is one of the best big shooters. We gave him too many open looks. Wright, Made three threes, that’s not really his strength. OG made two, Siakam made one out of two, so those are things we’ve gotta live with, some of them. We’re not giving them. They earned ’em, they made ’em.”
  • A terrific Brooks quote on Kyle Lowry: “Kyle is not a volume shooter – he shot nine times last game, he normally shoots 12 a game for the year – he’s a volume winner.”

Assorted

  • I’ll be posting some updates/quotes/T-shirt news/etc regularly on my Instagram story throughout the playoffs. Selfies if I look cute.
  • So let’s start there, with what everyone cares most about: The t-shirts for Game 2.

  • The viewing party in Jurassic Park/Maple Leaf Square is back on for tonight. Believe that opens up two hours before tip off.
  • Kelly Oubre arrived in a custom Washington Capitals jersey, which might bode well for the Raptors from an omen perspective.
  • Dan Devin on the Lowe Post Podcast discussing Raptors-Wizards with Zach Lowe was very good, including the nugget from Zach that ESPN employees were told to make sure their passports are up to date in case the Raptors make the finals (this came after Cleveland dropped Game 1 and the Raptors won theirs).
  • A very happy 61st birthday to head coach Dwane Casey.

The line
Game 1: Raptors -8 (Series Raptors -630) (Raptors 114, Wizards 106)
Game 2: Raptors -7
Series: Raptors -800 (implied probability of 88.9 percent)

The Raptors are 7-point favorites, up from an opening line of Raptors -6.5. The over-under has dropped from 215 to 213.5. Two of tonight’s three referees have a slight road team bias against the spread, while one has a large pro team bias when not the lead official, so this probably comes out close to a wash. Really, it was a minor surprise the line initially differed by 1.5 from the series opener since that game went mostly to form (and in fact was a push).

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