NBA Playoffs 2018: Toronto Raptors vs Washington Wizards Game 2 - Match Preview
It took 11 tries over 17 years, but the top-seeded Raptors (59-23) finally have a 1-0 series lead after opening this Eastern Conference best-of-seven with a 114-106 victory Saturday.
Toronto, whose only previous Game 1 win in 13 tries came against Philadelphia to start the 2001 conference semifinals, got a total team effort as their role players picked up leading scorers Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who were held to a combined 28 points on ten-of-26 shooting.
Serge Ibaka totalled 23 points and 12 rebounds while reserves C. J. Miles and Delon Wright accounted for 30 of Toronto’s 42 bench points and made seven of 11 shots from three-point range to compensate for a second five without injured guard Fred VanVleet.
The Raptors shot 53.2 percent overall and made a playoff club-record 16 3-pointers in 30 attempts from beyond the arc as five different players knocked down at least two treys.
Washington (43-39) did not play all that bad, but Mike Scott’s flagrant foul with 10:02 to play swung the momentum of the game as the Raptors scored four points off that possession to trigger a game-breaking 15-5 run in which Miles and Wright accounted for 13 of those points.
John Wall had 23 points, 15 assists, and four steals but also was just six of 20 from the floor. Markieff Morris added postseason career highs of 22 points and six assists while matching a playoff career best with 11 rebounds, and Bradley Beal had 19 points for the No. 8 seed Wizards, who had 29 assists on their 41 field goals and shot 47.7 percent.
Washington have lost five straight road playoff games and nine of their last ten postseason contests outside the nation’s capital, with the lone victory their Game 6 triumph at Atlanta last year to advance to the conference semifinals.
Three keys to the game
The Raptors bench mob delivers - All season long, Toronto's bench has received praise for their efforts and were key contributors to the Raptors winning a franchise-record 59 games.
It was no different Saturday, with the 41 points right on the season average (41.8) for the Raptors' reserves.
“They’ve been battle-tested all year, so you’ve got to let them get a shot at this,” Miles told the Toronto Star after scoring all 12 of his points from beyond the arc. “Those guys have put in a lot of time just to be ready for game situations. You might not call certain guys shooters, but it’s part of their skill set. The shots we get in our offense, we work on them every day. We drill them every day.”
Will the Wizards keep trapping DeRozan and Lowry? - Washington used an aggressive trapping defence to keep the ball out of the hands of the Raptors top two scorers, and while they were held 11 points below their combined season average of 39.2, they finished with 15 assists between them and may have forced Wizards coach Scott Brooks into a re-think of this plan.
"It's definitely a pick your poison but we have to do it better," he told The Washington Post. "We have to be able to close out on point, close out on the catch, know who has the ball and which way to close out on them."
Anunoby unexpected contributor offensively - Raptors rookie OG Anunoby scored in double figures just twice in his final 25 games, scoring 21 in a meaningless game versus Orlando on April 8 and 11 in a loss at Washington on February 1.
Despite averaging just 5.9 points, Anunoby is a serviceable three-point shooter at 37.1 percent and contributed a pair in helping Toronto jump out to a 22-13 lead in the first 7:14 of the game.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey will usually opt for the veteran Miles over Anunoby similar to how he did for the final 14-plus minutes Saturday, but the Raptors will be tough to beat if the rookie forward can provide anything above his scoring average like he did in Game 1.
Matchup to watch
Wizards C Marcin Gortat vs Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas - Gortat played well Saturday, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds while making six of nine shots, but he needs to stay on the floor.
He picked up two fouls in the first 2:44 of the game, forcing the Wizards to scramble defensively. It started a chain reaction in which his backup, Ian Mahinmi, also ran into foul trouble, which then forced Brooks to use the 6' 8" Scott in the middle.
While Gortat's counterpart Jonas Valanciunas did not have huge numbers with nine points and nine rebounds, the Raptors are versatile enough offensively and deeper than the Wizards where they can mix and match personnel to create greater advantages and separation similar to what happened Saturday.
Washington Wizards Probable Starters
PG - John Wall
SG - Bradley Beal
C - Marcin Gortat
SF - Otto Porter Jr.
PF - Markieff Morris
Toronto Raptors Probable Starters
PG - Kyle Lowry
SG - DeMar DeRozan
C - Jonas Valanciunas
SF - OG Anunoby
PF - Serge Ibaka
Toronto Raptors vs Washington Wizards at Air Canada Centre
Date and time: ET - 17 April 2018 7:00 PM