Opening Statements: Wizards at Raptors, Game 6 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Raptors, Game 6

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Updated: November 7, 2014

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This can only be conceived of as a battle for sole possession of the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Forget that it’s just the sixth game of the season for either team, or that these teams will play two more games after the year turns over. This is for all the marbles, if we’re talking about the marbles I bet on this game at a boutique hipster marbling/sports bar fusion establishment. Washington’s only win against Toronto last season came in triple overtime, through the sheer force of John Wall’s will. It was, to many, a signature win for what was at that time a team that could not win consistently.

This Toronto team is deep, and talented. So far, they’re the fourth highest-scoring offense in the NBA. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have started very strong. As of today, Lowry has been the best in the NBA in touch-to-turnover ratio, better even than Chris Paul, and by a wide margin. Lowry turns the ball over once for every 213 touches, compared to Chris Paul’s one turnover per every 106 touches rate.

According to John Schuhmann of NBA.com, Toronto opponents have committed more than twice as many turnovers (99) as Toronto has (46), making the Raptors the best team in the NBA at taking care of the ball and at forcing mistakes. If the Wizards start sloppy, they may never get a chance to clean up their act, with Lowry, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross raining down 3-pointers.

Meanwhile, the Wizards, who take the fifth fewest 3-pointers in the NBA per game (without Beal and Webster, that’s somewhat expected), also rank sixth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage. In other words, what was supposed to be a weakness in the absence of D.C.’s aces has instead been steady as ever. If anything, the Wizards (for now, mostly Garrett Temple) should be taking more of these shots.

How much of Temple’s success is attributable to John Wall’s penchant for creating open looks (especially in the corner)? Well, probably quite a bit. But Wall isn’t making the shots for Temple, and regardless of how the ball gets in his hand, the kid has been knocking them down with enough panache to garner local, and national interest, and to inspire articles like this one from Mike Wise, casting Temple appropriately as the hard-working journeyman finally tasting success.

After the game against the Pacers on Wednesday night, Randy Wittman joked that Temple was playing so well that Bradley Beal might become the new 15th man (don’t worry Wizards fans, this isn’t D.C.’s football team). And while that might not be true, Temple’s shooting—which has come out of nowhere from a statistical perspective—has kept the Wizards out of trouble against the opposition, and has helped keep the floor spaced for Wall to run the offense.

The Wizards travel to the Air Canada Centre tonight to face the Raptors (4-1), who surged back to beat the Boston Celtics in their last game. Joining me in the spirit of joyous insight dissemination is William Lou (@william_lou), of one of the NBA blogosphere’s best sites, Raptors Republic. Let’s get it.


Teams: Wizards vs Raptors
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WTEM-FM 99.1
Spread: Raptors favored by 3.5 points.


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Q #1: The Raptors have been scoring a lot of points, but are 28th in the NBA in assists. What makes this offense work?

@william_lou: Free throws. The Raptors have attempted the second-most free throws in the league this season, averaging 35.2 per game. They’re toeing the line at an unsustainable rate, but players like DeMar DeRozan, Tyler Hansbrough, Kyle Lowry, and Lou Williams also deserve credit for repeatedly attacking inside as well.

Q #2: John Wall and Bradley Beal. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Both pairs candidates for the egregiously over-debated “East’s Best Backcourt.” So let’s not talk about that, specifically. Who’s the East’s Worst Backcourt?

@william_lou: Fantastic question. The correct answer is Detroit’s brick-happy combo of Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, though the dark side of me wants to start a Twitter war by naming Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis is so yesterday. It’s all about ¡BRUNO!

[Ed. note: Can’t argue with that. —CDD]

Q #3: One of my favorite moments of last season’s playoffs was seeing the crowd in Toronto react to Masai Ujiri dropping the mic on “#^*$ Brooklyn!” outside of the arena.

Can you imagine Ernie Grunfeld saying “%*$# Chicago?” What was Ujiri’s best move of the offseason?

@william_lou: All joking aside, Ujiri’s best move was denouncing Danny Ferry’s racially insensitive comments regarding Luol Deng. He handled it in a rather classy fashion, though no one would have blamed him, nor been surprised, had Ujiri simply left it at “F**K FERRY!” Trading Raptors pariah John Salmons for a useful combo guard in Lou Williams and essentially a first-round draft pick Bebe Nogueira was pretty cool too. Also, ¡BRUNO!

Q #4: The only win Washington got against Toronto last year was in extra innings, and the Raptors seem to have the kind of balanced team that the Wizards sometimes struggle to defend.

Where is this team vulnerable?

@william_louGet Amir Johnson into foul trouble and the Raptors’ defense will fall apart at the seams. With Amir sidelined with a perpetually wonky ankle, the Raptors conceded an average of 103.3 points per game to the Celtics, Heat and Thunder—three mediocre offenses.

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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.