Pretty amazing to see how quickly the good vibes created by 10-game stretch where the Toronto Raptors went 8-2 can disappear, isn’t it?
But that’s exactly what happened on Thursday night when the Raptors dropped a listless affair to the Washington Wizards, allowing the Wizards to essentially catch up to them in the standings. (The Wizards remain one game back in the win column, having played two fewer games.)
And now the two teams meet again, with a bizarre late afternoon start time in Washington. Will the Raptors show up?
Where to watch
TSN, 5:00PM ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Washington Wizards — Delon Wright, Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, Kristaps Porzingis, Daniel Gafford
Toronto Raptors — Otto Porter Jr. (foot – out)
Washington Wizards — Monte Morris (back – out)
Play-in teams playing like play-in teams
While the Wizards won that Thursday game, they only looked marginally better than the Raptors; neither team covered itself in glory, as both sides played lacklustre D, both sides turned the ball over 14 times, and neither team moved the ball particularly well. The Wizards hit five more three-pointers and hit two more free throws, and that’s almost entirely the difference in scoring (they won by 11).
In other words, it wasn’t great basketball. But at this point in the season, that’s exactly who these two teams have proven themselves to be: excessively mediocre. On paper I’d still give the Raptors the talent edge, but their on-court play has been so far away from what they should be on paper, its like someone stuffed that paper into a bottle and it’s on the other side of the Atlantic by now, washing up on the beach in Portugal.
I’m keeping my expectations low today, and I’d suggest you do the same!
Will someone else please give Jak a hand?
It feels like the Raptors who have been here since the start of the season are mired in this funk, and Jakob Poeltl has been a breath of fresh air. He’s been everything the Raptors could have asked for — heck, I think he’s been even better than anticipated — but the rest of the team hasn’t really picked it up alongside him. Sure, we can cut Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby a little slack, I suppose, as they shake off some rust (and Anunoby did look great last game), but man... Poeltl is setting the pace but no one else is keeping up.
Time to stop messing with the rotations
Speaking of Poeltl, the fact that he only played 10 minutes in the first half last game, and only 3 in the second quarter — a quarter where the Wizards scored 35 points and extended their lead to nine at half-time — remains inexplicable. Sure, he played 21 of 24 minutes in the second half but the damage was done. The season is almost over, and if the Raptors are serious about making a postseason run, it’s time to start playing a postseason rotation.
That means two starters should be on the floor at all times. That means Thad Young and Will Barton should only be playing spot minutes, or during foul trouble. That means allowing guys like Gary Trent and Precious Achiuwa to learn how to play alongside Poeltl.
Will Siakam and VanVleet be gassed by April? Yeah, probably. But if that’s what it takes... well, that’s what it takes. Otherwise the Raptors won’t even make the play-in, let alone have a shot to get out of it.