And we’re back. After a six-game, 13-day road trip — the longest of the season — from which Toronto escaped with a 3-3 record, the Raptors return home to host the Washington Wizards on Sunday evening.
Aside from being the first home game in two weeks for Toronto, this is the first game in what has become an under-the-radar rivalry since the Wizards dispatched the Raptors with ease in the opening round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs.
Toronto is coming off a great road win in Utah on Friday, which saw DeRozan score 37 points, including some rare long-range treatment, going 3-for-7 from distance, including a 4-point play.
This was easily DeRozan’s best game of the year offensively after spending the first seven games in a comparative backseat role and he’ll look to continue the assertiveness on Sunday.
It appears, however, Washington could be without John Wall, who suffered a shoulder injury after running into a hard pick set by Channing Frye during their game against the Cavaliers on Friday night.
Although Wall finished the game, he surfaced from the locker room in a sling and remarked that he shouldn’t have been in the game after the injury occurred.
It’s a tough break for Washington, who just had Markieff Morris return from injury on Friday. Whether Wall even misses the game is still unknown for certain, but it looks like he’ll be sitting.
Where to Watch:
6:00 p.m. EST
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Washington - Tim Frazier, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat
Toronto - C.J. Miles (flu), but he’s probable
Washington - John Wall (shoulder sprain), but he’s doubtful
Control the Glass
Both teams are middle-of-the-pack when it comes to rebounding the ball, but Washington is still a dangerous team when they manage to control the offensive glass. Gortat is great at controlling position in the paint with his physicality, but Jonas should match up well when vying for loose balls in the post.
The clear advantage Washington holds is at forward, where the return of Morris at power forward will push Otto Porter to small forward, where he’ll be guarded by Norman Powell. While Powell can effectively play defense against Porter with his 6’10” wingspan, he will find it difficult to contain Porter, averaging seven rebounds per game, on the glass.
However, with Wall a question mark and the Raptor bigs able to hold their ground against the Wizards, the Raptors have a clear opportunity to control the glass Sunday.
Without DeRozan putting up 37 on Friday, Toronto would have found it difficult to win. The bench got away with the mediocre game thanks to their starting guard, as they were outscored 36-26 by the Jazz reserves.
Last season, it was possible for the bench unit to put up 15 points total against Washington and still win the game. However, the Wizards’ front office has put a lot of effort into the end of their bench, which now features a couple of volume shooters in Jodie Meeks and Mike Scott.
The team was obviously missing CJ Miles’ ability to light up the net versus the Jazz, but beyond him, there’s no versatile threat each and every night. For all Pascal Siakam has shown early in his second season, there’s no guarantee he puts up 15 points by himself.
Toronto will need everyone firing on all cylinders in order to have a chance in this game.
Key Matchup: Norm vs. Otto
Porter is the clear third option on the Wizards offense, and he plays his role very effectively — scoring 18 points per game, on 56% from the field and 50% from distance — shooting numbers that should keep Powell a busy man all evening.
If Wall misses the Sunday contest, Porter will be an even bigger part of the game plan, which could give Powell one of his biggest tests of the young season. If Powell can continue his production of the last few games and hold Porter to under 20 points, consider that a successful night.
However, Porter has the potential to put up points in a hurry, so don’t be surprised if Dwane Casey switches up the defensive scheme in an effort to slow him down. When Jae Crowder fails to put a kink in Porter’s shot, you know he’s on fire.