The NBA postseason is finally here, with plenty of intriguing matchups.
In the Eastern Conference, the top-seeded Toronto Raptors will be taking on the eighth-seeded Washington Wizards. The Raptors will be looking to prove to the doubters that they are indeed a top-tier team in the league, while the Wizards will be looking to pull off a big upset.
Here is a look at this first-round playoff matchup.
Regular season summary
For the first time in team history, the Raptors are a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The Raptors finished the season 59-23 as one of the most balanced teams in the NBA.
The team was led by the duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan averaged 23 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. Lowry averaged 16.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. Jonas Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka and CJ Miles also contributed at least 10 points per game.
Offensively, the Raptors finished fourth in points, with 111.7 points per game. They shot the ball efficiently too, finishing seventh in field goal percentage at 47.2 percent. Unlike most of the league’s playoff teams, Toronto scores a lot of its points in the paint as they finished sixth at 48.6 per game. All that time spent inside has also helped them averaged 17.3 made free throws per game, good for ninth in the league.
Toronto also handles the ball very well. They finished sixth in assists and had the sixth fewest turnovers, which put them fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio.
One area they could improve on is 3-point shooting, as they rank 18th at 35.8 percent. It is not terrible, but one of the lower percentages among playoff teams.
Defensively, the Raptors allowed the sixth fewest points per game. They were also fifth in opponent field goal percentage and 11th in opponent 3-point percentage. They rank second in blocks too.
Toronto’s bench also was a major contributor to its success. The bench ranked fifth in points, fourth in field goal percentage, fourth in rebounds, second in assists, second in blocks and first in steals.
It is safe to say the Raptors are one of the more well-rounded teams in the NBA right now.
The Wizards have now made the postseason in four of the last five seasons.
Like Toronto, Washington is led by its backcourt. John Wall missed half the season due to injuries, but still managed to average 19.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 9.6 assists per game. Wall’s absence also played a role in the Wizards’ low seed.
Bradley Beal was the main man in Wall’s absence, averaging 22.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr. and Markieff Morris each contributed over 10 points per game as well.
Offensively, the Wizards were a bit above average, ranking 13th in points per game and 11th in field goal percentage. But they finished fourth in 3-point percentage at 37.5 percent. They also pass well as they finished fourth in assists.
Defensively, the Wizards were not bad. They ranked 15th in opponent points, 15th in opponent field goal percentage, sixth in opponent 3-point percentage and 10th in steals. However, they could improve their defense inside. They rank 21st in rebounds, 19th in points allowed in the paint, 21st in opponent second-chance points and 22nd in blocks. If they want to win some games in the playoffs, they will need to play better defense inside and prevent opponents from getting multiple chances to score.
Washington’s bench is also about average, ranking 16th in points, 12th in field goal percentage, 17th in rebounds and 20th in assists.
Breakdown and predictions
The main matchup fans will be watching is between the stars in the backcourt. DeRozan and Lowry against Wall and Beal will definitely be interesting to see.
Things get interesting elsewhere. The Wizards shoot the three better than Toronto, but Toronto does a lot of scoring inside. Toronto’s defense does fairly well at defending 3-pointers, but Washington’s defense does not play well inside.
Toronto’s bench also overmatches Washington’s. Washington’s starters are going to have to put in a lot more work than Toronto’s starters if they want to stay in the game.
Toronto and Washington tied in the regular season matchups at 2-2, but do not expect this series to be that close.
Toronto is just too good on both sides of the floor, and their bench can also take care of business. Washington will not be able to defend the Raptors inside. Washington has made it out of the first round in its last three postseason appearances, but not this season.
Having Wall back will be a nice boost for Washington and they may be able to take a game from Toronto, but this series belongs to the Raptors.
Raptors in five
Featured image by Getty Images
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