The Toronto Raptors are not just back at home, but they are back in the winning column after snapping the Milwaukee Bucks’ 8-game winning streak on Thursday. Despite their injuries, the Raptors are starting to see more and more pockets of offensive possessions where their half-court offense looks decent. It was cool to see Fred VanVleet take over against the Bucks and Pascal Siakam repeatedly collapse the defense and provide direct and indirect shot opportunities to his teammates. Now, if the other guys can just start hitting their shots, the Raptors can be a tough team to beat.
Defensively, the Raptors are trending in the right direction. Toronto held their last two opponents to under 100, but that defense will be put to the test today — because the Washington Wizards can score. Despite his recent struggles (43.1 FG% and 26% 3P% this season), Bradley Beal will still be the priority for Nick Nurse’s defensive scheme tonight.
The new Wizards seem to be the difference for them this season — Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell provide them with the talent and depth that Washington’s been devoid of for several years.
Tonight’s game will be the third meeting between these two teams, with both teams winning on the road. Raptors won their last matchup, with VanVleet going off for 33 points. The Wizards will be facing a much different team, as this will be the first time they will see Pascal Siakam this season. Also, Kuzma had to exit their previous game early in the third quarter and was ruled out to return due to a wrist injury.
Tonight, the Raptors are missing OG Anunoby (hip) and Khem Birch (knee), and the Wizards will be without Thomas Bryant (ACL) and Rui Hachimura (personal), making it feel like this is the first meeting between these two teams. Both teams are also in a funk (Raptors last 10 games: 3-7, Wizards last 10: 4-6) and are looking to get the Ws in more consistently, so expect tonight’s game to be a good one.
Where to Watch:
SportsNET, 6:00 PM ET
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa
Washington — Bradley Beal, Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Daniel Gafford
Toronto — OG Anunoby (hip – out), Khem Birch (knee – out), Goran Dragic (personal – out)
Washington — Thomas Bryant (knee – out), Rui Hachimura (personal – out)
Montrezl Harrell is averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds off the bench against the Raptors this season. He looked like he was able to throw his weight around impeded. It will be a crucial bench vs bench lineup tonight. Based on the Raptors’ game against the Bucks, expect a transition lineup of Siakam/VanVleet/Trent/Boucher/Banton.
This lineup should be followed up with Trent/Barnes/Boucher/Banton/Mykhailiuk lineup before the starters return. Harrell is expected to be flanked by shooters in Beal and Bertrans and most likely Raul Neto and Deni Avdija off the bench for the Wizards. It looks like Boucher’s going to have to hold his own to keep the bench minutes decent.
Svi, Theoretical Shooter
I suppose I can’t be blamed if I admit that I had only seen two OKC Thunder games last season. I mean, look at the beating that they got from the Memphis Grizzlies the other day. However, when I saw Mykhailiuk play for the Thunder against the Raptors, he looked like an all-star, dropping 22 points on 4/8 three-pointers. Perhaps that game was a significant factor that excited the fanbase. The Raptors finally got a shooter amongst the forest of arms and length.
Unfortunately, Svi’s shooting hasn’t delivered that much this season, and the opportunities were there several times for him to go off. The shots were just not falling for Svi. He’s only made 5/30 over the last four games, and he shot 31.5% from behind the arc for November. It’s just unfortunate that the Raptors don’t have a plan B if Mykhailiuk’s shots aren’t falling.
Nurse’s Rotation is like a box full of chocolates
Perhaps it’s partly matchups, firefighting, and lack of production, but coach Nick Nurse’s bench rotation has been wildly inconsistent. He is clearly searching for what would work, but he’s still throwing things at the wall a quarter into the season.
Chris Boucher’s demotion from the rotation was part poor-play and partially because of Yuta Watanabe’s return. However, Malachi Flynn and Dalano Banton’s minutes have been wildly inconsistent. They could be coming in as the 6th or 7th player on the rotation on one game, only to get a DNP-CD the next. With the trade restrictions on many players coming off in 10 days, it would be good to see what the end of the bench can do and improve their stock and use them as an asset for a potential trade. Sadly, none of the bench players have taken advantage and grabbed the opportunity by the horns.