The Toronto Raptors are better than the Washington Wizards. They’re 7.5 games ahead of them in the standings a little over halfway into the season. Toronto ranks fourth in the NBA in offensive rating and third in defensive rating; Washington is 12th and 13th respectively.
At 15-11, the Raptors are one of only seven NBA teams with a .500 or better record on the road. Couple all of that with the fact that the Wizards just lost their ostensible franchise player [extreme Bradley Beal side-eye] in John Wall for the next couple of months and it would seem like this game is one the Raptors should be poised to win.
Memories of a playoff sweep from three seasons ago, however, always make a trip to Washington feel a little bit like going to the dentist. You know you have to do it and you know it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be and the games are actually usually half-decent and we’ve been so good lately and I swear I’ve been flossing, NO PUT THE DRILL AWAY.
Goddamn Paul Pierce.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, here are your details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch
Sportsnet One, 7pm EST
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Washington - Tomas Satoransky, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat
Toronto - C.J. Miles (knee soreness, day-to-day — but, probable)
Washington - John Wall (knee surgery, out), Sheldon Mac (not set to return)
The Real Beal
Bradley Beal has been flat-out better than John Wall this season. The oft-injured swing-man has grown into a superstar, making his first All-Star team. There are myriad statistics you can cite to prove this but I’ll just focus on one — through 50 games, Beal has played all 50 and has been worth 5.0 win shares. Wall has played just 37 and been worth 2.6.
The thing is, Beal might be ill-suited to a leading role. He and Wall work best as a duo, which is why, after a rough start, the Wizards of Chocolate City have been finding their stride over the past six weeks or so.
When Wall was injured at the beginning of the season, SB Nation’s Tim Cato wrote an interesting piece about Beal, who had played extremely well in Wall’s absence, even hanging 51 points on the Portland Trail Blazers. A major point of contention is that Beal’s three point efficiency and overall attempts take a huge hit when Wall isn’t there to be the primary ball-handler.
Expect Toronto to throw OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and hopefully not DeMar DeRozan at the Wizards star guard this evening.
The Game Between the Arcs
That three point efficiency could play a huge factor in the game tonight. Washington is currently 5th in the NBA in three point percentage (37.5%) but attempt just 26.4 three’s per contest, a number that ranks them 23rd in the association. The quality of the threes they take is a key component of their offense and if Beal’s new leading role diminishes his ability to take and make them, their offense may get bogged down. Toronto also guards the line very well in general, holding their opponents to 35.0% from deep, fourth best in the NBA.
The Raptors are kind of the opposite on offense, weirdly enough. They’re near the top of the league in three point attempts (31.3) but rank just 27th in three point percentage (35.0%). And as well as Toronto guards the long ball, Washington has been even better, holding opponents to 33.6% from three, the 2nd best overall mark.
In two games so far without Wall, Washington had a game where they rained threes (18-32 versus Atlanta) and a game where the three ball stalled out (7-25 versus Oklahoma City). Guess which game they won and which game they lost? Quality of opponent matters of course but as the three ball goes, so do the Wizards.
The Wizards quintet of Wall-Beal-Porter-Morris-Gortat has played 446 minutes together already, despite all 5 of them being available in just 26 of the Wizards 50 games. That’s just 39 minutes less than the Raptors starting 5 have played together since OG Anunoby became a starter (33 games).
They’ve sported a +6.4 net rating in that time, which is solid over such an extended run. The thing is, when they’re not on the floor, as a whole, the Wizards are pretty bad.
The Wizards most used bench unit is a Ian Mahimni, Jodie Meeks, Kelly Oubre Jr, Tomas Satoransky and Mike Scott. The lineup has played 147 minutes together and sports a -5.1 net rating — and now they won’t even have Satoransky, who’s had to join the starters in Wall’s absence.
The Raptors young bench unit has been praised far and wide — we don’t need to get further into that here. Just know that if they line up against the Wizards non-starters, Toronto has a pretty clear advantage.