When Toronto took a 2-1 lead against the Pacers in the 2016 first round of the playoffs, Raptors fans let out a collective sigh of relief. After a 101-85 win in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Raps took back home court and went on to win. In round 2, Toronto took a 2-1 lead against the Miami Heat, after a 95-91 win in the American Airlines Arena, reclaiming home court once again. This year, Toronto is holding a 2-1 lead, but this time the squad is coming off a loss.
If you read Alex Wong’s terrific piece on the anxiety and fear of Raptor fans, you would know that we Raptor fans have “a looming fear that it is all going to come crashing down”.
But rest assured, the Raptors are still in great shape.
In the last seven playoff series for Toronto, they have won a road game in four of them. The three series where they haven’t won a road game? Against Cleveland the past two years, and against Washington three years ago. After losing by 27 against Milwaukee in 2017’s Game 3 debacle, Toronto bounced back and won Game 4 by 9. Keep this last bit in mind.
Toronto is an experienced and tested squad. They’ve been beat up much worse than Friday night, when Washington took advantage of Toronto’s sloppy play on their way to a 122-103 win. Toronto have an excellent chance to continue their great road play against teams not named Cleveland with a win tonight at the Capital One Arena.
Here are details for tonight’s game:
Where to Watch
Sportsnet One, 6:00 PM EST
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 – day-to-day)
Washington – Jodie Meeks (suspension – out)
Turnovers, Turnovers, and Turnovers
In Game 1, Raptors had a total of 17 turnovers. In Game 2, they had 14. On Friday, they had 18. The turnover issue was masked in the first two games by the poor play of Washington. Game 3 was a different story. The final score was 103-122 and Washington managed to score 19 points off Toronto turnovers. The Raptors literally threw the game away.
Washington finished with 10 steals through some sloppy handling and passing by Toronto. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan finished with a combined 12 assist and eight turnovers. The live-ball turnovers create easy buckets for Washington, but they are also momentum killing plays. With 3:30 left in the second quarter, Toronto cut a 13-point deficit to five points before making a careless pass which lead to a Washington three. A potential six point swing. Cutting down the turnovers — especially the live-ball variety — will make life so much easier for Toronto.
Stranded In No Man’s Land
Bradley Beal and John Wall were spectacular in Game 3, each finishing with a game high 28 points. Beal ignited the late first quarter barrage, hitting two threes and ending the quarter on a 12-2 run. For Washington, Beal’s explosion was needed since his stinker in Game 2, when he finished with nine points and a plus/minus of -34.
For Toronto, it’s the same old story. Valanciunas has had difficulty containing quicker guards in the pick-and-roll since entering the league and Friday night proved it once again. The Wall-Gortat pick and roll is a deadly weapon in Washington’s offense, and Valanciunas was caught in no man’s land more than once.
It was doubly frustrating last night because JV has shown flashes of excellent pick-and-roll defense this season. The Raptors need it now, because of the Wall (or Beal) and Gortat pick-and-roll gets going, it could spell serious trouble for Toronto.
Yak Not Yakin’, Skills Not Skillin’
The Raptors bench (minus Delon Wright for the most part) has struggled in their limited minutes through the first three games. Poeltl especially has been struggling against the veteran frontcourt of the Wizards. In Game 1 he posted two points, one rebound, and three turnovers. In Game 2 he performed just a little better, posting four points and four rebounds. In both games his minutes were cut short, with Washington’s bench — particularly Mike Scott — having their way, and the whistle often not going his way. (Which has been a problem all season for poor Poeltl.)
Pascal has not had much of an impact all series long. His and Poeltl’s struggles against Washington’s bench has forced Dwane Casey to experiment with different lineups, including the always smiling C.J. Miles-Lucas Nogueira frontcourt. The switch-up worked in Game 1, and Wright and Miles were superb in Game 2 — but Toronto could use more from the duo we call Jak and Skills.
And of course: Fred VanVleet’s absence was felt in the Friday night loss. Hopefully his return (tonight? for Game 5?) will help pick the bench up, both figuratively and literally.