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Shootaround news & notes: Wizards focused on Raptors starts, VanVleet questionable

Shootaround notes are a little abbreviated today due to the Raptors not having a shootaround. 

The Toronto Raptors have gotten out to the following starts against the Washington Wizards in this series:

  • 14-4
  • 21-8
  • 22-14
  • 15-4

Naturally, that’s a point of focus for the Wizards heading into Game 5.

“I noticed I don’t like ’em,’ head coach Scott Brooks said at shootaround Wednesday. “Definitely, all four games, they’ve had some good starts. Hopefully it changes tonight. They’ve had four good starts, we’ve had to overcome a couple of ’em, but that’s playing with fire. We’re gonna have to have a better start tonight.”

The starts have often dissipated, but the Raptors have won first quarters in the series by 23.3 points per-100 possessions, by far their best mark of any quarter in the series. What happens from there is a mix of factors, like regression, the Wizards bench outplaying the Raptors bench somewhat unexpectedly but understandably with Fred VanVleet out, and the Raptors getting away from what works early to some degree. To wit, the starting lineup for the Raptors owns a 12.1 net rating over 73 minutes but could be playing together more, and Jonas Valanciunas and OG Anunoby have the two of the four best net ratings on the team but rank only seventh and fifth in minutes, respectively.

There’s a lot that goes into these game flows and rotation decisions, of course, it’s just that the Raptors seem not to go back to what worked in those early minutes quickly or frequently enough. At least, so far. For the Wizards, digging out of those holes has surely been exhausting, and preventing them in the first place is at the top of their gameplan. That means getting back in transition to stop Toronto’s early energy

“We’ve got to get stops. This is a team that the last two games, they tried to get out and push the pace a little bit more,” Bradley Beal said. “They do a good job of scoring in the first quarter, scoring almost 30 points a quarter. So as much as we can, we have to take a lot of their rhythm shots, their rhythm plays out of the game, kind of mix up our coverages and keep them off balance.”

For John Wall, that also means trying to continue to goad the Raptors into a bit more one-on-one play.

Can’t take ’em with you

There’s been a lot of talk about the officials the last few days, which is normal during a series. Marcin Gortat thinks the series is too soft, Dwane Casey doesn’t like Gortat’s screens, John Wall and DeMar DeRozan both don’t love the whistle they’ve gotten at the rim, and Bradley Beal fouled out, then celebrated Jakob Poeltl fouling out. Beal had some interesting thoughts on fouls in general.

“If it happens, it happens, man. Being aggressive. You can’t take ’em with you,” he said. “Just like timeouts. You can’t take timeouts with you. Coach is going to burn ’em. Just as well as you’ve got fouls, you’ve got six of them. I’m gonna use them all until I’m pretty much out, but I definitely gotta be smarter with how I use them.”

I suppose it’s true you can’t take them with you, but they still come at a cost. For what it’s worth, the Raptors are averaging 0.2 more fouls committed and 1.2 more free-throw attempts per-game than Washington, and both teams rank in the top six for postseason free-throw rate so far. Underlying the whistle has been some appreciated physicality.

“It’s been great. It’s the playoffs, that’s what it’s supposed to be,” Wall said. “Nobody’s trying to injure anybody, everybody’s just playing hard and playing physical and just trying to win the game for their team.”

I’m sure the officiating won’t become a bigger discussion with Marc Davis running things for Game 5.

Notes

  • The Raptors did not hold shootaround and will instead do a closed walk-through this afternoon. Even without availability, we have minor news – Fred VanVleet has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable. VanVleet was able to shoot Monday and participate in practice Tuesday, so he’s tracking closer to a return whether or not he goes Wednesday. OG Anunoby is not listed on the injury report.
  • Here are the t-shirts for Game 5.

  • Jurassic Park/Maple Leaf Square will be open at 5 p.m. and will show the Raptors game on the main screen with the Leafs on two secondary screens and, later, Toronto FC on a screen as well. It’s been really disappointing to see the response to this very reasonable compromise. MLSE originally said the home team would have the square no matter what, but the Leafs being in a Game 7 and TFC being in a Champions League final are both huge events, too. That there are some fans bothered by sharing the space and trying to turn this into anything other than a great night for the city’s sports scene and an opportunity for some much-needed togetherness in the city is a great example of people missing the entire social value of sport. Do you, I guess, but personally, the more teams succeeding and the more people enjoying together, the better. Anyway, the rain is supposed to go away by this afternoon.
  • The Raptors intend to show the Leafs game on the screen at the Air Canada Centre following the conclusion of the Raptors game. With a 7:02 tip time for Raptors-Wizards and a 7:30 puck drop for Leafs-Bruins, fans in attendance will probably get the crucial moments of the Leafs game in before leaving, if they chose to.
  • John Wall and Bradley Beal both offered their condolences to the families of victims from Monday’s tragedy and said they expect the ACC to be a pretty emotional place Wednesday night.

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