Former playoff foes clash when the Washington Wizards visit Scotiabank Arena tonight at 7:30 p.m. Since their last playoff matchup in 2018, both of these teams have undergone seismic changes to their rosters. The Toronto Raptors of course won the championship the following season and have been looking to get back to that level ever since, whereas the Wizards mostly stalled before committing to a rebuild this past offseason.
On that note, winning isn’t exactly the number one goal in Washington at the moment. After finally moving on from longtime staple Bradley Beal and trading up in the draft for Bilal Coulibaly, the Wizards committed to the youth movement. They subsequently traded away Kristaps Porzingis for Tyus Jones and picks, and were able to relay Chris Paul to Golden State for their talented albeit frustrating young guard Jordan Poole. Through nine games so far, Washington’s been a fun team, with Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma even connecting on lobs off the backboard while trailing by 21 points.
Jordan Poole throwing a breakaway lob off the backboard to Kyle Kuzma down 21 was certainly something pic.twitter.com/KAAMBnERUC— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) November 2, 2023
Fun doesn’t always equate to good, though. Washington is 2-7 and second last in the East after a 102-94 loss to the Brooklyn Nets last night. They’ve dropped six of their last seven games, with their only win coming on the first half of a home-and-home with the Charlotte Hornets. Raptors fans can expect a high scoring affair, as Washington has scored the fifth most points per game so far while allowing the most in the league.
The Wizards come as a perfect opponent for a Raptors team that needs to bounce back from a tough loss to the Boston Celtics. In the loss, the bench played almost the entire fourth quarter due to Boston’s lead, which was upwards of 30 points near the start of the frame.
Despite recent improvements in the department, Toronto’s three-point shooting struggled mightily and was a major reason the deficit to Boston became what it was. The Raptors will look to lean heavily on its two best players, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam. While the former had his first poor performance on the season, the latter has seemed to struggle in every game outside of their win against the Dallas Mavericks. In that game, Siakam looked like his old self, making buckets in the paint at a high clip.
Facing off against a smaller Wizards team that doesn’t boast an intimidating defensive presence near the rim, look for Pascal to see a bulk of the touches in the paint.
How to Watch:
Sportsnet, at 7:30 p.m. ET
Toronto: Dennis Schroder, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Boston: Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford
Toronto: Christian Koloko (Out - Respiratory), Gary Trent Jr. (Questionable - Foot), OG Anunoby (questionable, finger laceration)
Washington: Delon Wright (Out - Knee)
More Efficient Shooting
Though I did just break down how the Wizards are vulnerable on the interior and that Pascal Siakam will look to take advantage of that, the Raptors shooters still need to knock down their shots. Shooting 10-for-37 from deep was a factor in their loss against Boston, especially as they continued to shoot the ball rather than continue with what was working in scoring close to the rim.
An offensive game plan also requires one to be good to benefit the other. If the defence knows a team can’t shoot, they’ll sag off their man and look to help on the interior, doubling or tripling players close to the rim. Knocking down their shots when they get a good look is key for every team, but especially this one that feasts on the inside with players such as Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl and Scottie Barnes.
Slow the Game Down
These teams almost could not be more opposite when it comes to pace. The Wizards sit first in the league in pace, with the Raptors being third last. Though Toronto has definitely had success getting out in transition to score the ball, so has Washington. Limiting the Wizards in transition and forcing them to set up in the half-court will play into Toronto’s advantage, as they boast a taller and more defensively sound roster. Typically, any team that can force its opponent to play their style of game has the advantage, but even more so tonight.
Crash the Glass
Again, Toronto is the bigger team. It’s how Masai Ujiri has built this roster. While the Raptors haven’t been great at grabbing rebounds this season, Washington has been worse. Last overall in rebounds per game, second last on the defensive side and fourth last on offence, Washington is giving the ball away on the glass. Especially for a team that hasn’t had the easiest time shooting the ball this season, grabbing rebounds and going up for secondary scoring chances will be important tonight. Dominate the glass and the Raptors should come away with the victory tonight.