Opening Statements: Wizards at Raptors, Game 54 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Raptors, Game 54

Updated: February 11, 2015



What a day to be alive. The Wizards play the Raptors for second place in the Eastern Conference tonight, in the last game for both teams before the All-Star Break. Although, Washington’s chances are probably grim, if recent history against the Raptors is instructive. John Wall will nonetheless lead the lonely charge without his backcourt mate Bradley Beal (out with a really sore toe and, per a team media update, a newly discovered stress reaction in his fibula). Beal will be re-evaluated after the break, but the Wizards are ready to be evaluated against Toronto today.

The Raptors are an interesting matchup for the Wizards for a few reasons, but my favorite game-within-the-game when these two teams play is tracking Washington’s success against lineups that include Jonas Valanciunas and lineups that exclude him. Valanciunas is by no means always a liability, but against the Wizards, whose defense eats up traditional forwards and centers, he’s often been the reason Washington could stay in the game at all. On the flip side, when Valanciunas is replaced by a “smaller” player like Amir Johnson or Patrick Patterson (and Johnson often plays alongside Patterson with Valanciunas on the bench), the Wizards defense struggles to step out to the 3-point line to stop the long shots from leaving the barrel.

This isn’t a must-win, or even a should-win. It’s a probably-won’t-win-but-wouldn’t-it-be-grand-if-they-did-win. Without Bradley Beal, and likely without Kris Humphries, the Wizards will be deprived of a lot of already scarce points. Better call Rasual.

If you’d like some catharsis on an evening already clouded by unwelcome injury news (via Beal), then TAI has you covered. Kyle Weidie clapped back at Feinstein after Feinstein clapped back at Wizards fans clapping back at him for being a dunce. I detailed the history of Feinstein’s mythomaniacal obsession with Wall. And John Converse Townsend chronicled a failed romance between Randy Wittman and the Wizards.

Joining me today is William Lou (@william_lou) of ESPN Truehoop’s Raptors Republic. Let’s get it.

Teams: Wizards vs Raptors
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Raptors favored by 5 points.


#1) John Wall just said that losing to the Raptors for the third time would be “devastating.”

What would Kyle Lowry say about losing to the Wizards? And can you imagine a situation in which the Wizards do manage to get a win?

@william_louKyle Lowry would probably play it safe and give daps to his opponents. He’s real political like that. But secretly, I think he and DeMar DeRozan foster a healthy rivalry with the Wizards as the two backcourts are often mentioned as part of the “best backcourt” conversation.

As for the Wizards beating Toronto, it’s entirely possible. The key is for Washington’s bench to not be outplayed by Toronto’s, which seems to happen every time the two squads play each other. Otherwise, they’re very evenly matched teams.

#2) The Raptors are a “deep” team, but not 15-deep by any measure.

Whereas the Wizards regularly search far down their bench for veteran contributors, the Raptors’ chronically unlit cigars are far more inexperienced: Bruno Caboclo is famously years away from being years away. How have the Raptors managed real, playoff-rotation depth while also incubating young talent?

@william_louI think it’s two-fold.

One, the Raptors don’t give anyone preferential treatment in the name of development. As you mentioned, Bruno “I’m In Love With the” Caboclo and sidekick Bebe Nogueira never play meaningful minutes. To a lesser degree, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross only score minutes if they’re effective. It can be argued that this strategy cuts into development, but it certainly has translated to short-term success.

Two, Toronto is very confident in its athletic training staff so they can withstand a few dead spots on the roster. DeMar DeRozan’s groin injury was the team’s first significant injury in years. Last season, the Raptors missed the fewest games due to injury. By keeping their players healthy, the Raptors don’t have to litter the roster with insurance pieces.

#3) Speaking of playoff rotations, what the hell has happened to James Johnson’s role?

He was a big part of the Raps early success this year. Can you make the case that he should be playing more?

@william_louMy fellow writer Kiyan Sobhani wrote about this yesterday. I’ll give my TL;DR version.

I can understand why Dwane Casey is hesitant in giving Johnson a bigger role. Johnson is a tricky fit, as he can’t shoot 3-pointers, which makes him an awkward fit alongside another non-shooter in DeMar DeRozan.

However, Johnson has been one of the most productive Raptors (probably their 5th-best player) at a position where the Raptors are weakest (on the wing). He’s a far more effective and more versatile defender than Terrence Ross, who has struggled to find consistency as a slender shooting guard playing out of position. Ross especially struggles to check bigger wings, which is something of a speciality for Johnson. Our boy James has also been tremendously effective posting up smaller wings, and when pitted against bigger players, Johnson has been successful taking defenders off the bounce.

Like, he’s just perfect. Dude stopped Blake Griffin last weekend then shut down Kawhi Leonard a game later. Give the people (Raptors fans) what they want: free James Johnson.

#4) Wall and Lowry will be starting in the Eastern Conference backcourt at this weekend’s All-Star Game.

If you were an odds-maker on the day that Lowry was traded from Houston to Toronto, what would your odds have been on Lowry making the All-Star Game while a member of the Raptors?

@william_louAs close to zero as possible. Lowry always had All-Star talent, but he was injury prone, petulant, and inconsistent. Throw in the fact that the Raptors traded away his best friend in Rudy Gay and that they almost dealt him to New York (thanks for interfering, Dolan!), the odds of Lowry staying in Toronto AND making an All-Star Game were slimmer than Washington’s chances of beating Toronto tonight.


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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.