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Pre-game news & notes: Wizards stick with starters, no VanVleet for Raptors

The Toronto Raptors hold a 2-0 series lead over the Washington Wizards with the series now shifting to D.C. It should be a comfortable position, and it’s certainly preferable to trailing or having split the first two games, conceding home-court advantage in the process. In a lot of series, 2-0 can feel commanding. And it might here, too, were it not for the Wizards’ experience in this exact scenario. They dropped two on the road last year and looked defeated, only to end up winning every home game and nearly winning a Game 7 on the road. As Vivek noted earlier, the Wizards haven’t lost a home playoff game or a first-round series in some time.

“They’ve been in this situation before. They were 0-2 to Boston last year and came out like a different team,” Dwane Casey said at shootaround. “We’ve got to be prepared. We’ve got to play this game like it’s 0-0. If we come out any other way, you’ll know it. They’re a very talented team. Very athletic. Their speed and quickness is an issue. So, we’ve got to come out ready for them to be in attack mode. They had Boston down, what, 37-19 the first quarter last year before they even knew it. So, I expect that. We should expect it. And be ready for it.”

Adding to that experience is that the Wizards still have a lot of talent. Yes, they’re thin, and their defense has been all sorts of scattered and ineffective in this series. The body language isn’t great. It’s still a team that has a very good fastball when things click and a team that’s been close in each fourth quarter so far. That commands a certain level of respect and focus.

“We’ve got to expect it,” DeMar DeRozan said. “We look at it like we really haven’t did nothing. We did what we were supposed to do, win at home. The hard part comes now, being able to go on the road, meet their aggressiveness, attention to detail, the crowd behind them. Everything’s gonna be against us tonight and we have to treat it like that.”

There’s been no talk of Game 3 being a Game 7. Just a regular old potentially series-definining Game 3.

Game 3 tips off at 8 on ESPN 2 (Adam Amin, P.J. Carlesimo, and Jorge Sedano) and TSN 1/4/5 on TV and on TSN 1050 on radio. You can check out the full game preview here. Your officials are Ken Mauer, James Williams, and Gary Zielinski.

Note: I’m not on the road, so thanks to the other Raptors beat people for passing along quotes/transcriptions/tweeting updates.

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

Raptors updates
Fred VanVleet is not available here. The Raptors weren’t comfortable with how he looked in Game 2 and are going to take their time getting him back in there. Over at The Athletic, I went deep inside Fred VanVleet’s attempt to make it back for Game 2 and how frustrating the process was. It has to be even more frustrating now.

“He looked good in practice. For whatever reason, it wasn’t same in the game,” Casey said.

What the Raptors will do rotation wise is a big question mark despite the success managing his absence through two games. Only Delon Wright and C.J. Miles have positive net ratings (barely) off the bench, and almost all of the team’s success has come from the starters here. Wright has been huge and Kyle Lowry can play the entire fourth if need be, but they’ll need something from one of Norman Powell or Lorenzo Brown if Casey’s set on using a rotation of 10-plus. With a 2-0 lead and trust in their depth, they might not yet be at the stage of trimming the rotation to nine, as you’d normally advocate for in a postseason situation like this.

Asked about lineup changes in general – specifically about changing the starting unit if Washington had – Casey made it clear that everything is on the table now that it’s the playoffs. As it should be, though the Raptors should be just fine here with their starting group regardless of what Washington does.

“That’s still in the cards,” Casey said. “There’s a possibility if we see something that could possibly hurt us or help us, we hold that trump card. It’s about winning. It’s not about players feelings or whatever.”

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
TBD: None
OUT: Fred VanVleet
INACTIVE: Malachi Richardson

Wizards updates
Despite some suggestions over the last few days, Scott Brooks is sticking with his starting lineup. Asked why he suggested otherwise, it’s fairly easy to understand: The Wizards have been getting rolled by Toronto’s starters, and he was frustrated following a second loss in a row. He also wants to give them a home game to see if they can get it together, considering how much better a home team they’ve been historically.

“When you don’t have good starts and you’re in front of a microphone within five minutes of the game,” Brooks said. “I’m confident in the group. We’ve had good times together.”

Washington will almost certainly look to go small at some point, though. Ian Mahinmi hasn’t been a huge factor and Mike Scott has hardly missed. Brooks specifically mentioned Scott as being a necessary piece to counter Toronto’s bench mob, and he figures to see the bulk of the bench minutes in the frontcourt. Ty Lawson will also be a factor once again, one the Raptors should be a little more ready for. The idea of the Wizards going small never really seemed to bother Toronto, as the rim protection disadvantage would open up a lot for the Raptors’ offense.

“Just be aggressive. I think whether they’re big or if they’re small we have to be aggressive,” DeRozan said. “Try to be aggressive getting to the rim and if we can’t get all the way to the rim, make the reads, pass the ball, kick the ball out and guys have to be ready for open shots. But ultimately we have to just stay aggressive and figure it out from there.”

PG: John Wall, Ty Lawson, Tim Frazier
SG: Bradley Beal, Tomas Satoransky
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

  • A good response  from Dwane Casey at shootaround on whether he’ll go deep on the bench again, one I found funny even though he meant it literally: “I’m willing to use everybody under contract.”
  • From a more tactical than lineup perspective, the Raptors sound like they’re expecting Washington to trap a little bit less and force Toronto to beat them one-on-one a little more. It will be interesting to see, if they do that, how long they stick to it if the stars get going or Jonas Valanciunas eats inside against smaller units. The Wizards want to limit Toronto’s threes, and that might mean more switching and one-on-one defense rather than overloading on ball-handlers.
  • Scott Brooks said he met with John Wall and Bradley Beal between games to discuss the offense. Brooks highlighted that they needed to get more touches for Beal and Otto Porter – hilariously, Porter doesn’t appear to have been a part of this meeting – and Beal said Brooks even apologized for not running more plays for him in Game 2. Brooks said it wasn’t an apology. There’s some real communication going on here.
    • Here’s the full Beal quote: “He apologized to me, which is weird because he is somebody who always holds me accountable for stuff. He just basically challenged me. He challenged me to be more aggressive on the offensive end and the defensive end. Some of the situations we’ve been in, granted being in foul trouble last game didn’t help any, but putting myself in a better position on the offensive end and challenging me more defensively to stop those guys…I don’t know. I guess he figured I wasn’t shooting the ball enough and he felt like it was his fault, I don’t know. He’s probably the biggest confidence giver. He wants me to be aggressive at all times and that’s something that I’ve got to continue to do.”
  • Not only is it a little odd to let slip that your coach apologized, Beal’s explanation for the bad look on the Wizards bench is pretty shaky. If I’m understanding it right, it wasn’t a big deal because he was only disgusted with the team’s play? And there’s no issue with Wall and Gortat arguing? It might very well be nothing, or at least something they can work through, but that’s not the best explanation.

  • Marcin Gortat shaved his mohawk, by the way.

Assorted

  • I’ll be posting some updates/quotes/T-shirt news/etc regularly on my Instagram story throughout the playoffs.
  • Gates open at 6 for the viewing party in Jurassic Park/Maple Leaf Square.
  • More growth of basketball in Canada: RDS has been broadcasting the Raptors playoff games (in French) for the 1st time in 20 years this year. NBA Canada is also hosting a playoff viewing party in Montreal with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson this weekend. Details, and RHJ’s connection to Montreal, are still developing.
  • In his annual “coaches to watch” piece, Kevin Arnovitz adds more fuel to the idea that Jerry Stackhouse and Nick Nurse probably aren’t long for Toronto.
  • Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are on the cover of this month’s issue of ESPN The Magazine. There’s a great Rachel Nichols feature with it.

The line
Game 1: Raptors -8 (Series Raptors -630) (Raptors 114, Wizards 106)
Game 2: Raptors -7 (Series Raptors -800) (Raptors
Game 3: Wizards -1.5
Series: Raptors -1600 (implied probability of 94.1 percent)

The Raptors are 1.5-point underdogs with a 218 over-under. That’s an 8.5-point swing for a change in home court, which is a little higher than you’d normally see in the regular season. It probably prices in some desperation on the Wizards’ part, VanVleet’s injury, and Washington’s strong home play. The Raptors being underdogs is always something they prefer, anyway.

Programming note: I don’t travel with the team, so pre- and post-game news and notes are all you get while they’re in Washington. There were no shootaround notes today and will be no practice notes tomorrow (and there’s no shootaround, period, Sunday).

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