Post-Season Game 1
Wizards (0-0) at Raptors (0-0)
April 14, 2018 at 5:30 PM
Air Canada Center | Toronto, ON
TV: ESPN, NBCSW
Radio: 1500 AM
Odds: TOR -8
(Photo: Tom Szczerbowski via USA Today Sports)
What to Watch:
The Washington Wizards have a legit shot at winning their first-round playoff series against the top-seeded Toronto Raptors. For this to happen, they must leave all their bad habits behind in the regular season. This means the Wizards cannot play hero ball and be lazy on defense. Additionally, they must be careful with the basketball because turnovers can be costly.
It is essential for the Wizards to play team basketball. Everyone must contribute and be elite at what they do. Even if the shots are not falling, a player like Kelly Oubre can impact the game with his energy and smothering defense by forcing Toronto’s shooters to pass the ball or commit turnovers. It is imperative for Marcin Gortat to control and dominate the paint. He cannot allow the Raptors to drive to the basket and his teammates must help on the weak side.
These little but important things make up “team basketball” and if the Wizards play collectively like a team then an upset is bound to happen, starting with Game 1.
All-Star Backcourt vs. All-Star Backcourt
The Wizards will tell you when they are healthy they can beat anyone. Additionally, they will argue they have one of the best, if not the best, backcourts in the NBA. That said, the success of the Wizards will depend on how well both John Wall and Bradley Beal play.
Typically, a team takes the attitude of the best player. Wall must set the tone in both the locker room and on the court. If the Wizards go into the game and series with the “too cool for school” mindset they are bound to get swept or bounced in five games. However, if this team place egos aside and play as a unit, great things can happen for them.
Wall nearly averaged a double-double with 19.4 points and 9.6 assists per game despite missing exactly half of the regular season. Wall did not play against Toronto at all this season and his presence on the floor changes the dynamic of Game 1 and the series.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Oubre’s role on this team is so vital that he himself may not realize how important he is. Scott Brooks has been saying it over the past two years: it is all about defense. Oubre brings a unique balance to this team as his energy helps fuel the rest of his teammates on the floor and that leads to positive things for Washington. Oubre can block, rebound, and overall lockdown his defenders when focused.
If he can maintain and do those things, then he puts the Wizards in prime position to win this game. Not to mention, if Oubre finds his shot and becomes more consistent. Those two things happening simultaneous changes everything and that is why he is a big X-factor.
Ty Lawson Returns Home
Lawson is a native of Clinton, Maryland and will play for the Wizards this post-season. It is uncertain exactly what his role will be. However, he is back in the NBA to assist the Wizards in any areas they need help in whether it be with experience and leadership, on the court, or both. The point guard grew up watching the Wizards as his dad was a fan and is happy at this opportunity after spending the season in the Chinese Basketball Association until Wednesday.
Predicting if the Wizards will win or lose is just as hard as a meteorologist trying to predict when spring weather comes to stay. That is why the Wizards will win game one in Toronto. So many have written off this team because of their poor efforts at times throughout the regular season.
It is worth mentioning, the Wizards lost many of their games not because the opponent was better than them, but because they did not play to their potential. The playoffs are different. Despite their record and being the eight-seed, the Wizards could legitimately make it to the next round.
It starts with Game 1 of Round 1, which is something the Raptors have never won in 10 attempts. If Washington can steal this first game they will have an opportunity to close this series out at home. The team understands what needs to be done to be successful and that is playing team basketball. If not, then they can start planning their summer vacations now.