Want to know how high expectations are in Washington? After an 0-2 start — including an overtime loss to Memphis where they led by eight with 3:33 left in regulation — Wizards centre Marcin Gortat is calling tonight’s game against the Raptors a “must-win”.
Sure, it might be a little melodramatic to be making proclamations like this three games into the season. But with a new head coach in Scott Brooks, a healthy Bradley Beal, and a motivated John Wall, there’s clearly some frustration with losing in the nation’s capital. Exacerbating things is an opening night loss to the Atlanta Hawks, where they had another late-game collapse, giving up a 26-4 run to finish the game.
Enter the Toronto Raptors. The visiting Raptors are 2-1 and riding a hot star, as DeMar DeRozan has averaged 35 points in his first three outings. How good is that from an atypical shooting guard? Well, let’s look at the stats.
According to @EliasSports, Kobe Bryant is the last player to start a season with three consecutive 30-point games without a 3-pointer in '05— RaptorsMR (@RaptorsMR) November 1, 2016
Hey, that Kobe guy was pretty good! Adding to DeRozan’s fun is Kyle Lowry, who had his best outing of the young season against Denver on Monday, scoring 29 points on 50 percent shooting. Both the Raptors stars are playing well, so let’s get into the other details you can watch for in this matchup.
Beat Up Their Bench
The Wizards’ starting lineup presents its share of problems. John Wall’s attack-and-create game has been on point so far this season, as he’s averaged 11.5 assists through a pair of games. Bradley Beal isn’t shooting well (33 percent), but is always a threat to go off. Markieff Morris has shored up their lack of a power forward. Otto Porter Jr. and Marcin Gortat are good.
Get past those guys, though, and it’s like the Westworld landscape — a whole lot of nothing. Andrew Nicholson, Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton and Kelly Oubre are your cast for Rotation: The Musical, and the reviews have not been good so far. Both Memphis and Atlanta pounced on these lineups, and the Raptors need to do the same.
Dwane Casey has been masterful in his use of the bench, staggering Lowry with the unit which really makes Toronto go. Watch for that to happen again tonight against a seriously underwhelming Wizards unit.
Who Will Start Making Threes?
Right now, only the New Orleans Pelicans (19 percent, my WORD) are shooting a lower three-point percentage than the Wizards (24.4 percent) and Raptors (22 percent). The difference here is, the Raptors theoretically have multiple guys who can shoot. Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson are a combined 5-for-28 on three point attempts — which is horrific. DeMar DeRozan has missed all four of his tries. DeMarre Carroll is the only thing keeping this afloat: he’s made 6 of his 15 tries.
Can the Raptors finally get the deep ball going? Or will Wizards sharpshooters like Beal (2-for-10 so far) get their shot going?
Lowry vs. Wall
This is the individual matchup that matters most. Wall is the engine that drives the Wizards. When he’s on the floor, 56.5 percent of all Washington’s baskets are assisted by him — that’s second to only Russell Westbrook, who is an absurdist one-man show in Oklahoma City.
It’ll be on Lowry to contain Wall’s dribble penetration, if such a thing exists, and Cory Joseph to do well in spot minutes. Though he’s worked on his long-range shot in the off-season, there’s no evidence of that yet through two games. The Raptors will want him to prove it.
Where to Watch: TSN, 7:00 p.m. EST