This is the third matchup of the season between the Wizards (14-9) and Raptors (10-13). Both teams kicked off their season in Toronto, where the Raps lacked any sort of familiarity or flow and were quickly embarrassed. The second game a couple of weeks later was a complete 180, and might still be the high point of the season for the Raptors. Toronto improved to 6-3 behind Fred VanVleet’s season-high 33 points (in 43 minutes!), but dropped 10 of its next 13 before beating the Bucks on Thursday.
Toronto will be heavily leaning on Fred once again, so it’s a good thing he got two days of rest. FVV is coming off another masterpiece which even extended to timeouts telling his team “don’t f***ing move” while up four with a second left. VanVleet leads the NBA in minutes per game with 38.3, which is almost 2 minutes more than the next player (Jayson Tatum). In the last two seasons Nick Nurse ran up the minutes on his starters in ways that would make Tom Thibodeau blush out of distrust for his reserves. The difference between the past and now is that over time the Raps bench would start shining and minutes would eventually soothe to a manageable level. There’s is simply no sign of that yet this season. Getting OG Anunoby and Khem Birch back eventually will help the titanic style minutes when Fred is off the court. Until then, its ride or die until the wheels fall off.
Washington has been one of the pleasant surprises so far, but they may be coming back down to earth. The Wizards are 4-6 in their last 10 games, and are coming off a beatdown at the hands of the similarly rising Cavs on their home court (trailing by 36 at one point!). Bradley Beal is scoring nine less points a game this season (22.3) partially because now he has four other guys averaging double figures. The other reason is his three point shooting. Beal ranks 155th amongst 156 qualified shooters in the league (only behind Jalen Suggs) at 26.2 percent on over six attempts a game. Beal has shot over 40 percent from deep in three different seasons and has never been worse than 34, so this is a highly bizarre trend.
I could ask for some much needed bench scoring (Svi Mykhailiuk breaks his slump?) but lets go a different route since the lack of depth was already mentioned. Pascal Siakam has to stop hacking, it’s pretty simple. He fouled out against Milwaukee but was solid otherwise.
Siakam's been called for 16 fouls over the last 3 games. He said he was getting excited watching early in the season, when officials were letting a lot go, and joked that he must have missed that window.
"I think that period of time is gone now, so I have to be mindful of that"
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 4, 2021
This is game four of the season-high seven homestand and the next three games are very winnable. We saw what Memphis did to the Thunder. The Knicks are falling faster than you can say bing bong, and the Kings are the Kings with or without Luke Walton. Dare I say the Raptors climb above .500 when this homestand is over if they take care of business on Sunday? Sure, the game after would be in Brooklyn but that’s for the negative hat.
Tip-off: 6pm EDT | TV: Sportsnet | Radio: Sportsnet 590
Rui Hachimura (personal) hasn’t started 5-on-5 contact yet. Thomas Bryant (knee) has also been out the entire season so far.
PG: Spencer Dinwiddie, Raul Neto
SG: Bradley Beal, Aaron Holiday
SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert
PF: Kyle Kuzma, Davis Bertans, Anthony Gill
C: Daniel Gafford, Montrezl Harrell
OG Anunoby (hip) and Khem Birch (knee) didn’t practice on Saturday and are both out this game. Goran Dragic’s return (personal) remains unknown.
PG: Fred VanVleet, Dalano Banton, Malachi Flynn
SG: Gary Trent Jr, Svi Mykhailiuk
SF: Scottie Barnes, Isaac Bonga, Justin Champagnie
PF: Pascal Siakam, Yuta Watanabe
C: Precious Achiuwa, Chris Boucher
Toronto is favoured by 1.5 points. The over/under is 212.5. Falling off at this guessing game, down to 5-3 this season. The Wizards are 20th in points per game (106) and the Raptors are 23rd (104.9). Those two averages fall just short (210.9), so I’m taking the under. Yeah math!