If you woke up this morning hoping that all the horrible Raptors injury news was just a dream, I have bad news for you. It’s nightmarishly real, and it still sucks.
Still, the games must go on, and the short-handed Raptors will be hosting the Washington Wizards tonight, who are also missing several players (including super-fun rookie Rui Hachimura!).
It’s the first matchup between the two this season, and while this once may have been a budding rivalry, thanks to a couple of playoff matchups... these aren’t your father’s Wizards. Since that 2018 first-round meeting, John Wall has been injured forever, the Wizards dumped Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre and whatever Morris Brother they had, and have attempted to rebuild around Bradley Beal.
The Raptors? They’re the defending champs, in case you hadn’t heard!
Where to Watch:
7:30 on TSN
Toronto — Kyle Lowry, Patrick McCaw, OG Anunoby, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Serge Ibaka
Washington — Bradley Beal, Isaiah Thomas, Ian Mahinmi, Isaac Bonga, Davis Bertans
Toronto — Norman Powell (out - shoulder), Marc Gasol (out - hamstring), Pascal Siakam (out - groin), Stanley Johnson (out - groin), Matt Thomas (out - finger), Fred VanVleet (questionable - knee)
Washington — Thomas Bryant (out - foot), Rui Hachimura (out - groin), Jordan McRae (out - finger), C.J. Miles (out - wrist), Moritz Wagner (out - ankle), John Wall (out - Achilles)
Who’s Starting? Who’s Stepping Up?
Take the above Raptors starting lineup with a grain of salt, as we have no real idea yet where Nick Nurse’s head is at. That seems like the most likely group, given that Nurse trusts McCaw and that Hollis-Jefferson is the only real option at power forward on the bench.
If Fred VanVleet comes back tonight, though, that may change the equation. Would VanVleet start at the two, and McCaw and Anunoby shift down a position? That could be an option.
Regardless of who starts, the Raptors will need someone to pick up the scoring slack in the absence of Siakam and Powell, who were both averaging 27.0 and 19.8 points, respectively, during the Raptors’ current 4-1 run. McCaw and Hollis-Jefferson are unlikely to fill that void; Terence Davis II and Chris Boucher seem like more likely candidates to up their scoring with more minutes.
As for defense, while there’s no one who can replace all of the intangibles Gasol brings to the table, McCaw and RHJ at least bring hustle and toughness that should generate turnovers and allow the Raptors to run.
Deal with Beal
The Wizards may only be 8-18, but they pack serious offensive firepower, led by none other than Bradley Beal. The team is third in the league in points per game (117.7 ppg) and fourth in offensive rating (112.3), and Beal is sixth the league in scoring (27.6 ppg). Beal has also taken on a much larger playmaking role; he’s averaging career-highs in assists (7.0) and usage (31.5%).
All of which is to say, if the Raptors can slow down Beal, even shorthanded, they have a good chance to win.
I suspect Anunoby, McCaw and Davis will all get their chance to guard Beal. OG seems like the player most likely to give Beal trouble, but Davis Bertans — who is shooting the lights out — will also need some OG-sized attention.
Keep Your Head Up
Sure are a lot of players in street clothes for this one! But there’s an interesting contrast to how injuries have affected these two teams. Thanks to one big, devastating injury to their superstar, the Wizards are trying to rebuild on the fly, around their other high-paid superstar. And a plethora of other minor injuries, including to our old pal C.J. Miles, have kept them from being able to truly see what they have in their rebuilt roster.
For the Raptors, there were plenty of question marks coming into the season about their roster, but they quickly established a clear identity... only to have a spate of injuries force them to tinker and try to maintain that identity with different players playing different roles. (It’s also interesting to note that an injury to a superstar led to them acquiring said superstar... and winning the title!)
Injuries impact teams (and the league) in both big and small ways, and tonight’s teams show two prime examples.