Hey there, in case you didn't see my preview, I'm Joe. I do this stuff for the Pistons sub all season long and decided to hop on the Raptors bandwagon for the playoffs. The way it works is I will write like a paragraph about each player in review of the past game and then some general notes at the end. Once again, not formal, not super in-depth, but it is something you can read while taking a poop.
All year it has looked like this team is different this time. The numbers said so, the eye-test said so. But the reality remained that the Raptors, as a franchise, had never won a game 1 before and that was hanging over stuff. The game was closer than you would've preferred, but the Raptors were strong from just about start to finish and got a very solid win in game 1. Still work to do, but a good start.
There is an extent to which Lowry had the yips. He only scored 11 points on 10 shot equivalents and was never very eager to shoot the ball, but he did get 9 assists and 3 steals on the night. He also had a couple of brilliant defensive plays, including a great contest of John Wall in transition late in the game.
The other thing that made this game a little different for Lowry is that he hit several buckets late in the game. Both he and DeRozan seemed committed to trying to get teammates involved all game long, which was added too by the Wizards overplaying each of them, as such Lowry was content to be pass-first most of the night while still getting a few big buckets down the stretch. It was almost like a classic Rajon Rondo game in a way, the numbers were not gaudy, but watching the game you just knew that Lowry was having a hugely positive impact. Going forward it would be very nice to see him get going in the scoring column but this was different from past playoff failures.
17 points on 19 shot equivalents, with 2 boards, and 6 assists against 2 turnovers. As stated above, I'm pretty sure that him and Lowry were pretty committed to getting others involved early in the game and the Wizards regularly overplayed both of them. DeRozan did set a tone right out the gate in the second half with several straight buckets and even though the Raptors didn't go on a run to get a cushion without him on the floor, that was important out of half-time.
DeRozan does have a tough task in this series, where he can really get going to dominate a game often comes as a result of him getting mismatches with guys who simply cannot guard him (see various games where DeRozan has killed my Pistons) but the Wizards have literally got like 6 or 7 guys who have the right combination of length and speed to guard him respectably. That said, DeRozan doesn't impact the game with defense or passing (although he still facilitated very well in this one) like Lowry can so it will be more important for him to get going scoring the ball.
A big question mark and X-factor coming into the series. The small forward spot has been an issue for the Raptors for years now, and it wasn't clear how Anunoby would respond to his first playoff action. The answer is: Very good. He finished with 12 points on 9 shots with a couple of rebounds in 22 minutes, including 2-4 from deep. If he continues to consistently finish looks that others create for him like this then the Raptors will be in very good shape, and especially given how much the Wizards overplayed Lowry and DeRozan it was important that he didn't clang too many. One game does not make a sample size, but this game goes a long way in easing some concerns.
The only downside for Anunoby was that the Raptors often tasked him with defending John Wall and that didn't go so well. Wall missed a bunch of shots at the rim (partially because of great help defense) so it didn't burn them too much, but they may want to shelf that idea because he couldn't stay in front of him at all.
The main beneficiary of the attention paid to Lowry and DeRozan was Ibaka, who made the Wizards pay for leaving him open time and time again. Ibaka finished with 23 points on just 13 shot equivalents(!!) and also cleaned the defensive glass to finish with 11 rebounds, he also blocked a pair of shots. Him and Markieff Morris play fairly similar roles and are pretty even in terms of abilities, but Ibaka does take round one in this one. In the same vein as Anunoby, if Ibaka is this sharp then the Raptors starters will be pretty very difficult to stop.
In 23 minutes JV had 9 points on 6 shots and 9 rebounds with a pair of assists. When pitted against a small-ball lineup in the first half he didn't do as much damage as I would've preferred but he still made his presence felt on the floor consistently. An important matchup to look at for the rest of this series will be to see how he does against those small-ball lineups for the Wizards, because in case you didn't know, that was not just because of foul trouble. The Wizards run that out occasionally, gaurding Morris or Mike Scott is a tough ask for the lumbering JV but he has killed teams that don't have the size to deal with him in the past. If he could go out and really kill a small-ball group next time out it could change the entire look of the series very quickly. On the other hand, if the small-ball is able to force Valanciunas from the game it would hurt the Raptors.
This dude has come a long ways. I distictly remember in his rookie season he ended up in the rotation for some reason against the Pistons and he kind of got cooked by Steve Blake. Without getting too far into it, Steve Blake was so bad that Pistons fans still have PTSD from that season. I remember writing after that game that it was just because he was going against some rookie who I'd never heard of that was probably not an NBA player. Now, here that “not an NBA player” who got cooked by the corpse of Steve Blake being a majorly positive piece of a playoff win. 18 points on 11 shot equivalents with 4 assists in 25 minutes. He was on the floor in crunch time and joined Ibaka as the big winner when the Wizards overplayed the two stars. Hitting 3 of his 4 long guns, and also making a few very nice defensive plays. If Ibaka and Wright are not on their games today then there is a good chance that the Raptors are down 1-0, but now the Wizards will have to think long and hard about their defensive strategy of “Make anyone other than Lowry and DeRozan beat us.”
CJ Miles is around to do one thing: Shoot threes. As such he is the sort of dude who is very easy to evaluate. Did he hit some three pointers? If yes, good game. If no, bad game. So today, did he hit some three pointers? Well he went 4-7 from deep to score 12 points on 19 minutes so thats a yes. Good game for CJ.
In 16 minutes off the bench Siakam provided 9 points on 7 shot equivalents along with 5 rebounds. He did his normal thing where he played super hard on defense to be highly disruptive while also being a similar ball of energy on offense on his way to some buckets. Not a huge impact but he did his job to have a nice game.
The turtle didn't do a whole lot in this one. In 15 minutes he had 2 points on just 1 shot, grabbed a couple of rebounds and blocked a couple of shots. He also managed to turn the ball over 3 times which wasn't so good. Casey opted to go with Nogueira down the stretch.
Played all of crunch time, only scored 1 point on a trip to the free throw line and didn't record any other stats but his defensive rotations seemed crisp and the Raptors didn't blow the lead while he was on the floor so I think thats a win.
Only played 5 minutes, he missed a shot.
I'm not sure who to really give credit for this because I just didn't really see consistently, seemed to be a team effort more than anything else. Regardless, a huge win in this one was that the Raptors contained Bradley Beal who has been a big problem for the Raptors this season to the tune of averaging 28.8/5.5/4.3 per game on great efficiency against them this year. Today Beal scored 19 points on 17 shots with 4 assists, which isn't a bad game by any stretch, but he was largely held in check.
Beyond that, it was good to see the secondary players step up. The Wizards made the Raptors play that way with their defensive scheme so it was important for those guys to come through. The big thing to remember about this series, that a lot of national people (*cough ringer NBA podcast *cough) is that while it is true that this Wizards team is better than your typical 8th seed, the Raptors won 59 games this year and are mostly healthy! The Wizards were mostly healthy last year and had a really good season and won 49 games. So like, yeah, the Wizards will put up a fight here, maybe even win a game or two, but the Raptors are 100% better than the Wizards. If the Raptors lose it will be because they blew it, not because the Wizards were this sleeping giant. So yeah, the games will likely all be like this, close and competitive, but the Raptors should be able to mostly take care of business in the end.
What do you think? Can the secondary guys keep it up? Can Lowry and DeRozan get going in the scoring column? Can they continue to contain Beal?