It’s been a fun few days of relentless Wizards slander, but now it’s finally time for the Raptors to go to Washington and actually win the dang series. For the Raptors, and their fanbase, feeling comfortable two games into a series is an entirely new sensation. The fanbase has, of course, responded to this by constantly lambasting not just the Wizards, but any team struggling in the first round.
paul allen when damian lillard raps at him asking for more help on the squad pic.twitter.com/A1KzYuzzii— harsh (@IamHarshDave) April 20, 2018
The team, hopefully, has not gotten so complacent. DeMar DeRozan did say that they hadn’t accomplished anything yet in a post-game interview, which is promising, but I haven’t heard Kyle Lowry refer to game three as a game seven yet, so I can’t be sure the Raps are going to take this matchup seriously. One can only hope.
Game 2 is also a Game 7, per Kyle Lowry— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) April 16, 2018
As the series returns to Washington we must also hope that the fate of the series does not swing as a result of the Wizards’ truly fearsome home court. The Wizards posted a dominant 23-18 record inside Capital One Arena, good for 16th among playoff teams. This is a... tough... place to... Pfft.
Fred VanVleet will hopefully be back for realsies this time.
Raps in four.
Here are the details for Game 3:
Where to Watch:
TSN, 8:00 pm
Toronto — Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Washington — John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat
Toronto — Fred VanVleet (Shoulder — Questionable)
Washington — Jodie Meeks (Suspended — Out)
Through the first two games of the series the most consistently successful member of the Wizards has been stretch big Mike Scott. While John Wall and Markieff Morris have been inconsistent and the rest of the roster has basically been downright bad, Scott has provided stability to the Wizards’ otherwise punchless bench unit. Based on some hints dropped by Wizards’ coach Scott Brooks he may soon be providing that stability to the Wizards’ starting lineup.
Scott Brooks on Mike Scott coming in as a backup center, says you never know he may be a starting center.— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 18, 2018
The above quote would seem to indicate that if Scott was inserted into the Wizards’ starting five it would be in place of the struggling Marcin Gortat, who is coming off of a game two in which he failed to score a single point.
Scott is +19 in this series, but there is reason to believe he may not easily translate that success into the starting lineup. Scott has mostly found success preying on Raptors’ backup Jakob Poeltl. With Poeltl on the floor Scott has a +29 net rating and a 28% usage rate. Poeltl’s tendency to drop low into the paint means he fails to act as a shot deterrent and also fails to get out to the perimeter quickly enough to adequately contest Scott’s shots. Against Raptors’ bigs that are not Poeltl, Scott has only managed a break even net rating, and his usage plummets. Scott loses shots to Bradley Beal and John Wall in these lineups and he’s mostly been defended by Serge Ibaka, who is better able to act as a shot deterrent.
Flipping the Script
The narrative coming out of game one of this series was that the Raptors were able to win as a result of their bench. The Raptors’ starters played the Wizards’ starters even, but bench players like Delon Wright and Lucas Noguiera came in and made tremendous impacts.
The strength of the Raptors’ starters has often been overlooked throughout the year due to the utter dominance exhibited by their bench, but the starting five is one of the best lineups in the league as well. In game two of the series they flipped the script and showed that. Four of the Raptors’ starters were +23 or better in game two, as they carried the team in a game where the bench struggled to get stops.
The question is then, do you keep the starting five intact even if the Wizards make changes? With the Wizards going small with Scott at the five do you go small to match up or do you stay big?
Casey reiterates that when Wizards go with a SF at C it's very difficult to put Valanciunas on the floor. Says he's getting better and better.— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) April 18, 2018
While the above Dwane Casey quote would seem to indicate he’s considering matching up, I would prefer if the Raptors’ stayed big. Scott is certainly a much better shooter than you want Jonas Valanciunas guarding, but Markieff Morris, who is 1/6 from the perimeter in this series, is not. On the other end of the floor neither Morris nor Scott is capable of guarding Valanciunas if he catches the ball near the basket.
Hitting the Road
The Raptors leave the friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre for the first time in the series today. As I alluded to in my introduction, the Wizards do not have a particularly fearsome homecourt, but the narrative is always that “role players shoot worse on the road”. That didn’t exactly hold true with the Raptors’ role players in the regular season.
For Serge Ibaka and Delon Wright it certainly did. Ibaka and Wright shot 38% and 40% respectively from three-point range at home during the regular season, numbers that dropped to 34% and 33% on the road.
C.J. Miles and Fred VanVleet held steady, shooting close to identical percentages on the road and at home. Miles actually improved by a full percentage point on the road, going from 36% to 37%. That’s good news for the Raptors, but O.G. Anunoby’s home versus road splits may be even better news.
Anunoby struggled mightily at home throughout the regular season, shooting just 33% from beyond the arc. On the road that number jumped all the way to 41%. The Raptors have relied heavily on Anunoby as a pressure release for their offence through games one and two, and if the past is any indicator they’ll still be able to rely on him on the road.