The Toronto Raptors haven’t had much trouble in the first round this year. The Raps have looked every bit like the East’s No. 1 seed as they’ve handled the Washington Wizards pretty handily through the first two games of the series. They dealt them another demoralizing defeat in Game 2, 130-119. DeMar DeRozan went off for 37 points on 14-of-23 shooting. Jonas Valanciunas added an impressive 19 points and 14 boards in just 23 minutes of action, while CJ Miles chipped in with 18 points off the bench. Fred VanVleet finally returned to action after his shoulder injury, but Delon Wright continued to shine as he had 11 points, three steals, and two blocks off the Raptors bench.
As for the Wizards, none of their starters showed up in Game 2 apart from John Wall, who had 29 points and nine assists. Bradley Beal had an awful game with just nine points on 3-of-11 shooting. Forwards Markieff Morris and Otto Porter weren’t much better as they combined for just 18 points. They surprisingly got a lot of production off their bench, with Mike Scott, Kelly Oubre, and Ian Mahinmi combining for 46 points. Even Ty Lawson, who was just signed at the end of the season, came out of nowhere to put up 14 points and eight assists in 31 minutes. However, the fact that he played so many minutes is indicative of the fact that Scott Brooks is getting desperate to find anything that works.
Three keys to the game
Bradley Beal - Beal has had a habit of raising his game in the playoffs, but that hasn’t happened yet thus far. The Wizards have gone minus-44 when he’s been on the court in this series, which is indicative of how lacking his positive impact has been on the team. The Wizards will need a vintage performance out of him in order to get back in this series.
Raptors bench - Even without VanVleet, it’s basically been business as usual for the Raptors reserves. Wright has raised his game to another level with his outstanding defensive plays. CJ Miles has eight 3-pointers in two games. Even Bebe Nogueira has popped up with a crucial stretch of play. The Raptors have not quite been the same dominant force at home as they were on the road this season, and their youngsters on the bench could be the ones most affected by the trip to DC. But if they continue to play the way they’ve been playing, the Raps should be in decent shape.
Wizards lineup adjustments - Scott Brooks is searching for answers. He’s yanked Gortat to go for smaller, more offensively potent lineups, but they’ve suffered defensively. And the fact that a newcomer like Lawson is playing significant minutes in the playoffs is telling that he’s not quite sure which buttons to push. He’ll need to start doing so in Game 3 or the Wizards risk saying goodbye to any hopes they may have of coming back in this series.
Matchup to watch
OG Anunoby vs Otto Porter - Surprising as it may be, but Anunoby is outplaying Otto Porter. The Raptors rookie has been doing a completely adequate job wit his role, and the Raptors have obviously benefited. As for Porter, he has a mere 19 points in two games and has basically been a nonfactor. That just can’t be the case in Game 3, where the chips will be down for the Wiz. Porter will need to start getting more aggressive and knock down a lot more shots to help unleash this Wizards offense.
Raptors projected starting lineup
PG - Kyle Lowry | SG - DeMar DeRozan | SF - OG Anunoby | PF - Serge Ibaka | C - Jonas Valanciunas
Wizards projected starting lineup
PG - John Wall | SG - Bradley Beal | SF - Otto Porter | PF - Markieff Morris | C - Marcin Gortat
Valanciunas and DeRozan were the big fantasy stars for the Raptors in Game 2, while Ibaka and Wright starred in Game 1. In short, it’s hard to figure out exactly which Raptors will step up from game to game. Even with his relatively quiet first two games offensively, it could be Kyle Lowry, who is putting up just 12 points, but also five rebounds and over ten assists in the series. Ibaka would also be a strong option. His scoring is inconsistent, but he is averaging 10.5 boards and 2.5 blocks.
As for the Wizards, Beal has to finally show up at home following his Game 2 no-show. Wall has been the team’s most reliable fantasy performer in this series with 26 points, 12 assists, and two steals per game. Mike Scott has been surprisingly effective as well, as he’s gone 7-of-10 in both games thus far.
The Wizards obviously need to win this Game 3 to stand any chance of making this a competitive series. While there have been very few signs of the Wizards being able to keep up with the Raptors, they still do have another level they can reach, especially at home. Amid their inconsistency, I still believe they will show that true potential one of these games, and it'll come in Game 3. Take the Wizards to win and cover as slight 2.0-point home favorites.
The Wizards get a much-needed Game 3 win, 108-102.
This game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Tip-off is at 8:00 pm Eastern.