Ask anyone who watched, and you’ll know Game 5 was an exhausting affair from a Raptors perspective.
A tight game throughout, it never felt like Toronto could wrestle control from the Wizards — DeMar DeRozan propped up the offence, the bench struggled, and Washington always threatened. With the “85% chance of winning stat” on the line, it didn’t feel like a game between a #1-seed and an #8-seed... it felt like two evenly-matched teams that wanted it badly.
So yeah, I’d like to avoid that feeling again on Sunday — a day that’s supposed to be for rest and relaxation. The Raptors have an opportunity to close out the series on the road tonight in Washington, and while there hasn’t been a quote from Kyle Lowry saying this is a Game 7, it feels like one for fans who don’t want to go through the stress of an actual Game 7 (at home or not).
There are updates to be had for this game, which will be broadcast to the American masses on ESPN News — the station best known for First Take reruns. Washington announced today that their starting small forward Otto Porter Jr., who has struggled in this series but may be their most important role player, is out indefinitely after a serious lower leg procedure.
In Porter’s place, another Jr. emerges. Kelly Oubre will get the call at the starting three-spot, which means plenty of minutes to liven up his war of words with Delon Wright — an unforeseen subplot that’s not too surprising, given Oubre’s penchant for front-running.
What does this mean from the Raptors perspective? It would be nice to see a decisive plan for how to guard Oubre. He’s made just 18.8% of his three-point shots in this series (most of them missing badly), and having an opportunity to ease up on Oubre close-outs leaves more room to guard action with Bradley Beal and John Wall. Porter hasn’t been excellent shooting either, but his threat is much higher than Oubre’s.
It’s also a shot to the guard depth of Washington, which was paltry to begin this series. More Ty Lawson minutes can be expected, along with the possible revival of Tomas Satoransky. It’ll also be interesting to see how Wall’s second-half minutes play out. Scott Brooks played him all but four seconds in Game 5, and Wall looked beat by the time the Raptors went on their game-winning run.
For injuries on the Raptors side, it’s positive news.
Status update: Fred Van Vleet is available tonight at Washington.— RaptorsMR (@RaptorsMR) April 27, 2018
For the first time since Game 2 of this series, Fred VanVleet will be available to play as he continues recovery from a shoulder injury. VanVleet played just three minutes in Toronto over a week ago and looked pretty shaky. Where he factors in, and how healthy he looks, is going to be really interesting — we’ve repeated ad nauseum how his regular season shooting levels would benefit a struggling Raptors bench.
Now, for a longer Game 6 preview you can read Sully Akbari’s piece from this morning. JD Quirante also got into some of the possible tactical adjustments on both sides (though this was, admittedly, written before the Porter and VanVleet updates). After all that... get into the comments.
Where to Watch
Canada - Sportsnet One
United States - ESPN News (???)
7 PM ET
Washington - John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kelly Oubre Jr., Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Washington - Otto Porter Jr. (leg), Jodie Meeks (suspended)
Toronto - none