For some reason, the series between the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors seemed destined to happen way before the regular season ended and looks a bit too close to call from a first glance at the rivalry.
Two teams that are dominated by their guards play. Kyle Lowry, who has only just gotten back from an injury, next to DeMar DeRozan who also missed significant time this season. On the other end there’s Bradley Beal and John Wall, making this series a wonderful clash of young backcourts that are going to lead their teams to whatever outcome may be.
The Raptors have beaten the Wizards in all three games this season and six times in the last seven games, but the Wizards are the team with a playoff series win from last season. The Raptors? They came close but lost in seven games to the Nets. It’s hard to say how much they’ve improved, but there is valuable experience, because despite the cliche, playoff basketball is very different than the regular season.
Paul Pierce, the old man of this series, didn’t waste time and said that he wasn’t worried about the Raptors going into the postseason. Everyone expected some sort of profanity filled reaction from Masai Ujiri, the Raptors’ general manager, but nothing came from him; nothing that created headlines. The Raptors, with home court advantage, want to do the talking on the court.
Both teams are regarded as similar tier rivals. Good, maybe even dangerous playoff teams, but no one sees them as contenders. Too many flaws all across the board to seem like champions. But both teams have size and a decent enough. The Raptors’ bench unit is actually, according to net ratings, the best in the NBA, although it obviously comes in small minutes. The Wizards defend a lot better.
Who wins game 1? Both team’s haven’t looked great in the second half of the season. It probably comes down to how good of a shooting night DeRozan and Lowry have, usually setting up the Raptors’ offensive accordingly. If Lowry is healthy and not still sorting himself out from the injury, the Raptors are the better team overall. Slightly, but still better. Too bad they completely rely on streaky shooting.