The Toronto Raptors are confidently waltzing into Washington D.C. with a convincing 2-0 series lead. It’s the first time in franchise history that the Raptors taken such a lead in an NBA Playoff series. For a season filled with ‘firsts’ and countless broken records, Toronto only seems to be getting better as the difficulty ratchets up. If we’re being totally honest, the Wizards look completely outmatched thus far. In Game 1, John Wall posted a 23 point, 15 assist performance (albeit on 6 for 20 shooting) while Bradley Beal and Markieff Morris combined for 41 points themselves. Result? An eight-point win that could have, and should have been much more. Toronto’s best bench player, Van Vleet missed the game with injury while Lowry and DeRozan had a minimal statistical impact — but still a sizeable game impact. In Game 2, the Wizards bench exploded (Mike Scott – 20 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Ty Lawson with 14 points apiece, Ian Mahinmi – 12 points) while Wall again put up huge numbers with a 29 point, 9 assist and 4 rebound performance. Result? A dominating 130-119 performance by Toronto led by a 37-point effort from Raptors two-guard DeMar DeRozan. Once again, the Wizards were completely and utterly outmatched. Good news for DC — NBA playoff series’ aren’t a best-of-three, but instead a best-of-seven.
In the standard two-two-one-one-one playoff format, Toronto heads to the DMV in hopes of taking a 3-0 series lead and putting this series on ice. Absolutely no pun intended for those still licking their wounds from the bludgeoning of the hometown Maple Leafs playoff dreams. Since we’re on the topic of the Leafs and playoff format, the NHL needs t- you know what, nevermind.
The Wizards finished the regular season 23-18 at home, averaging 108.5 points per game while holding their opponents to 105.3 points. This was the 18th best home record in the NBA — far from a fortress worth worrying about. On the other hand, just like any other playoff team (in really, any other professional league) down big in a series, the Raptors will undeniably be up against a wildly desperate team. A team that for all its downfalls, is still shooting 48% versus Toronto in these last two games. John Wall, being one of the more passionate players in the NBA won’t allow his team to go down easy. That means we’ll see a galvanized group of men in the red, white and blue or we’ll see another total implosion a little something like this — except it may be a lot worse this time around. The pressure will make diamonds, or burst pipes.
I also want to direct your attention to a colleague of mine in the NBA Twitterverse. He covers the Miami Heat for ‘Miami Heat Beat’ while regularly contributing to the BBALLBREAKDOWN team. His name is Nekias Duncan and he’s brilliant. He frequently posts ‘threads’ of tweets where he diagnoses, analyzes and extrapolates information from key moments of games. In this particular thread, he focused on game two of the Raptors-Wizards series and gave his take. This is really good stuff from a remarkably bright basketball mind.
The Toronto Raptors destroyed the Washington Wizards last night, particularly in the first half.
I didn't get the watch it live, but I've caught up and it … well … it's worse than I thought. pic.twitter.com/nUQyycXoze
— Nekias Dunkin' (@NekiasNBA) April 18, 2018
The game tips off at 8:00pm ET on TSN 1, 4 and 5 (TV) and on TSN 1050 on radio.
After missing the first game, Fred Van Vleet returned in game two — albeit in a limited role. With or without FVV, the Raptors have proven they can handle the Wizards, however not having your best bench player fully healthy leaves a tiny sliver of doubt for Toronto’s chances. For those complaining about the large gaps of time between games in this series, one thing it does afford Toronto is time to recover. Van Vleet will presumably be at full health in this one. He played only three total minutes in game 2. That means now, all Raptors (barring any last-minute health issues) will be active for this game. Malachi Richardson, who there just isn’t enough room in the rotation for, will suit up and probably hold the inactive spot for this one.
There’s also the question of whether Dwane Casey will continue to go small as he has in the most crucial times of games 1 and 2. Lucas Nogueira went from playing big minutes in the first game, to only five minutes in the next. Poeltl, Siakam and Bebe combined for a mere 30 total minutes in game 2. All signs point to Casey using his Lowry-Wright-DeRozan-Miles-Ibaka crunch-time lineup again, if it comes down to it. Depending on game situation, that lineup may include Van Vleet.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Alfonzo McKinnie
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
PROBABLE: Fred Van Vleet
INACTIVE: Malachi Richardson
Morris and Porter were previously nicked up, but just as I explained for Toronto above, the three days of rest will help both teams recover from any minor injuries. Jodie Meeks will evidently not return as he was previously suspended for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy.
Gortat (0 points, 3 rebounds, 0 assists) and Morris (6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist) explicitly will look to rebound from miserable performances in the last game. Also, how will Bradley Beal respond in the Wizards opening home playoff game? I can see Beal coming out firing early on, setting the tone for Washington.
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
OUT: Jodie Meeks
INACTIVE: Ramon Sessions, Chris McCullough
Game 1: Raptors -8 (Series Raptors -630) (Raptors 114, Wizards 106)
Game 2: Raptors -6.5 (Series: Raptors -800) (Raptors 130, Wizards 119)
Game 3: Wizards -1.5
The Wizards are 1.5-point favorites (ok?) with a 218 over-under. Slightly larger than the 215 over-under in a game 2 prediction that was effectively smashed with a 249 total. I’m expecting the Wizards to bog down defensively at home after displaying leaky defense on countless occasions this series. I’m taking the under on 215.