In the modern era, sporting events have often transcended scoreboards and ticket sales in ever-evolving ways. However, it’s nearly impossible to envision a tighter bond than that of a mourning city and its hometown sports team. On Wednesday, the City of Toronto will get to watch all four of its major league teams fight to take home a victory.
It’s Game 5 for the Raptors, in an opening round series that has come down to a best-of-3 match-up with the Wizards. After each team took care of their home court in convincing fashion, the Raptors will try to defeat the Wizards twice over the next three days—ending the series and moving on to the second-round for the third straight postseason. A win at home on Wednesday gives Toronto a 3-2 series lead, before returning to Washington D.C. for Game 6 on Friday—where they lost two games by a combined 27 points.
Dwane Casey on Tuesday offered updates on both Fred VanVleet (shoulder) and OG Anunoby (ankle), commenting that both had gone through Tuesday’s practice and subsequently listed as day-to-day. Video was released by TSN’s Josh Lewenberg showing VanVleet taking shots and running a light scrimmage with teammates—both very good signs for a potential return to the court.
VanVleet scrimmaging with some of the young guys after practice today. Just hit a 3 and finished a tough layup. pic.twitter.com/aRx0kgJvwS— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) April 24, 2018
Here are your details for tonight’s game:
Where to Watch:
TSN 1/4/5 7:00 p.m.
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), OG Anunoby (ankle—probable)
Washington — John Wall (ankle—probable)
Back to Basics
Most of the talk following Game 4’s disappointing defeat was about the open looks which were repeatedly passed up by the supporting cast—which, during the regular season, was the most obvious difference between last year’s team and this year’s. DeMar DeRozan and Delon Wright have, since Sunday, spoken at length about the lacklustre decision making by everyone on the team, and all but promised a different approach to Game 5 in Toronto.
The first difference in that approach should be the reduction of attempts by DeRozan, and an increase of attempts by both Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas. In Games 3 and 4, Ibaka and Valanciunas combined for 12 and 11 shots, respectively—roughly seven to eight fewer shots than they combined for during any given regular season game.
Getting these two scoring options involved early has proven to be tremendous in helping take the pressure off of the back court on the offensive end—especially in the second half of Game 1, and the entirety of Game 2.
Surely you’ve heard by now, but Game 4 saw Kyle Lowry and DeRozan combined for 44 shot attempts, while no other Raptor player (bench or starter) took more than seven. That can’t happen again.
Protect the Ball, Get the Win
For the regular season, the Raptors averaged out as one of the best teams in the league in terms of caring for the ball. Flip the calendar though, and suddenly they are the absolute worst—17.0 turnovers per game, good for last out of all 14 playoff teams. In what can only be explained by a lack of focus, Lowry and DeRozan are combining for nearly seven turnovers per game between the two of them, after combining for just 4.5 in the first 82 games.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to say this, but when the Raptors protect the ball, they’re almost guaranteed a win. In Game 4, Toronto committed 18 turnovers, leading to 19 points. Meanwhile, Washington’s 13 turnovers led to just 11 Toronto points—a point-total differential matching that of the Wizards’ margin-of-victory.
The most head-scratching part of the five additional turnovers per game (compared to the regular season) is that most of them are simply bad plays featuring a bone-headed mistake. It’s one thing if a turnover is the result of a hustle-play. This lack of focus, however, is nearly inexcusable at times.
More 3s Will Open up the Post
There’s one big discrepancy when looking at Toronto’s post-season offense compared to the regular season version: three-point attempts are way, way down.
After averaging 33.0 attempted threes per game during the regular season (a top-five mark), Toronto has taken five fewer in the playoffs—just 27.8 attempts per. So, despite making the shots at a much better rate, in terms of volume Toronto is making the same number per game. Not only would an increase in attempts help the Raptors score more efficiently, it could provide much needed spacing to two of it’s most important bench pieces.
After a jarringly dissociated games one through three, Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam showed signs of life in Game 4—just in time for them to return to Toronto with a small amount of momentum. One problem Siakam has had this series is operating in space, which is something he found himself good at as the season progressed.
His fake dribble-hand-off actually became a signature (-ish) move for him toward the end of the season. But, with Washington’s defense crowding the interior more when the bench is on the floor, he’s been lacking the space required to work his usual magic—and that’s hurt his front-court partner Poeltl as well. If Toronto is able to take their usual 30+ 3PA in Game 5, expect both Siakam and Poeltl to find a bit better rhythm off the bench in the second and fourth quarters.