Where to Watch: ESPN2 (National, United States), TSN (National, Canada) @ 8PM EST
What an unexpected predicament Toronto finds itself in.
In a matter of six days, the mood surrounding the Raptors has hastily darkened. The optimism and sunshine that accompanied Saturday's Game 1 (oh, Saturday ... it was a simpler time), have been replaced by rolling, black cumulonimbus clouds in the shape of super-genius Randy Wittman.
Two crushing home losses and a drastic swing in the Vegas odds on the series now has Toronto facing their first true must win game since Game 7 against the Nets last year. Another loss in Game 3, and all the Raptors will have to do to save the season is become the first team in the history of the NBA to erase an 0-3 hole in a series. So yeah, it would behoove the Raptors to find a way to win tonight.
But how will they? Through two games, the Wizards have dominated nearly every facet of the series:
|Team Comparison Thru 2 Games||FG%||3FG%||REB||FTA||AST%||Fast Brk PTS||Wins|
It's not difficult to see why the Raptors have been taken to school so far. There were a few things Dwane Casey's squad was going to have to do in order to win this series - hitting three-pointers, hanging with Washington's physically imposing big men, earning an abundance of free throws and controlling the Wizards' transition game being among the chief concerns. Obviously, none of those things have happened.
Toronto's hopes for a second-round berth will be crushed if the noted trends through the first two games aren't quelled tonight. In addition, many of the Raptors individual stats will have to experience a noticeable uptick tonight.
The Disturbing Individual Numbers Behind Games 1 & 2
Lou Williams: 2-12 3FG (16.7%) | 9-29 FG (31.0%)
Kyle Lowry: 10 Personal Fouls | 10.8 2nd-Quarter Minutes | Personal 2nd Quarter +/-: 0 | Team 2nd-Quarter +/-: -24.0
DeMar DeRozan: 5-8 FT (Averaged 7.2 Per Game this season)
Jonas Valanciunas: 8-18 FG (44.4%) (57.2% this season)
Of course, there are more reasons behind the ugliness we have witnessed in this series. Greivis Vasquez may actually be trying to let John Wall blow past him, Terrence Ross has been oh so inconsistent, and the rebounding discrepancy has been astonishingly ridiculous.
But the players mentioned above have been the most relied-upon players all year. They are the top-four scorers, and they have not being doing the things that allowed the Raptors to have a top-five offense this season. Had they been playing to their abilities, Toronto may not be in such a dire situation.
And while a complete reversal in their quality of play seems unfathomable right now, there's a reason series are seven games long. And let's not forget - Washington was 24-27 after the New Year this season, with the 10th-worst offense in the league during that span. Despite their dominance through the first two games, Washington is not Cleveland, or Atlanta or the '96 Bulls. They, like the Raptors, are very beatable on the right night.
With that apprehensive positivity in mind, enjoy (or at least try to) what may be the last game of the season in which there is a glimmer of hope for our beloved Raptors. And as always feel free to engage in conversation throughout.