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article imageOp-Ed: 10 reasons why the Toronto Raptors will demolish the Wizards

By David Silverberg     Apr 16, 2015 in Sports
Toronto - The Toronto Raptors square off against the Washington Wizards in the first round of the NBA playoffs, and I predict the Raptors' offensive firepower will overwhelm Washington's disorganized defense. Raptors in five.
The Raptors enter the post-season with high hopes: a franchise-record 49 wins, point guard Kyle Lowry's all-star year, the rumour of Lou Williams winning Sixth Man of the Year, and DeMar Derozan named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month in April, leading all players in the East by averaging 24.1 points in seven games.
Now their focus turns to the Wizards, a team they swept this past season. The first game begins Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET and the second game is scheduled for Tuesday night (both in Toronto).
As tenacious as the Wizards' all-star John Wall can be on the dribble, as strong as Nene can be on the boards, the Raptors will only have one game's worth of real trouble against the Wiz.
After analyzing both the Wizards' strengths and weaknesses, and after a year of following the Raptors religiously, I can safely declare the Raptors' scoring will be too much for the Wizards.
Here are 10 reasons why the Raptors will win this first-round battle vs. Washington:
1. Scoring by the bunches
At the end of the NBA season, Toronto places fourth in points-per-game (104), while Washington was a lowly 26th (98.5). Basketball is a simple game: if you score more than the opposing team, you win. The Raptors can attack the Wizard in a variety of ways: DeMar Derozan slashing to the bucket, or posting up and fading away for an open shot; Lou Williams coming off screens to get a pass for a clear three-pointer, or Lou-Will is killer at one-on-one plays, stepping always to his left to launch a shot; Jonas Valanciunas posting up against Gortat, which will be difficult at first, but if Val's hook shot is sinking, watch out; or Kyle Lowry just out-muscling the skinnier Wall.
It's been fun watching the Raptors find their offensive groove, and I expect the intensity of the playoffs to only fuel this team's aggressive spirit.
2. Where's your O, Washington?
Turning to Washington's scoring, the Wizard are buoyed by John Wall's talent. Where he goes, the Wiz go. He averaged a double-double this season, notching 17.6 points-per-game and 10 assists. But he needs help. And it's obvious the Wiz can get mired in such a deep shooting funk, it can be hard for them to climb back to excellence, as we saw in February. In that month they went 3-9, averaged 36.3 field goals on 83.3 attempts, only got to the line for an average of 19.8 free throws, had 22.8 assists to 15.4 turnovers, scored 93.0 points per game and gave up 97.6, as this NBA.com article reports.
Now that's ugly. But could be a beautiful tune to the Raptors supporters.
3. The return of Kyle Lowry
The last game of the regular season confirmed that the all-star point guard is back. After missing several weeks with a back injury, Lowry is rounding back to form, having sunk six three-pointers against Charlotte on Wednesday. Despite his offensive talent, Lowry is also a bull on defense, being the top player to draw offensive fouls against opponents. He does the little things, also, that don't show up box scores. He's a vocal quarterback of the offense, plays tough against any point guard facing him, and crashes the boards to haul in five boards per game.
Lowry, like Wall for Washington, is the heart of his team. When he steps up, on either side of the court, the Raps stomp anyone they face.
4. Lou-Will's best year is Washington's biggest fear
I didn't write that just for the rhyme. Undoubtedly, the Raptors have some of the deepest bench players (more on that later) and Lou Williams, formerly of the Atlanta Hawks, has been a valuable addition to that squad. He's averaging 15.5 points a game, his best career total yet. He has been clutch during those dying seconds of a shot clock. He's averaging 4.9 free throw attempts per game, his highest ever. Lou-Will shows no sign of slowing down, and Washington will have to keep an eye on him since he moves so well without the ball.
5. Washington's terrible bench
The Wizards bench is in disarray this year, as we learn here. Even one of their bench riders claims responsibility for the Wiz squandering leads in March: “We let our teammates down not having their backs,” Drew Gooden told reporters. “The good thing is we take it to heart. It hurts us as a unit when we don’t perform and have our first unit’s back. So that’s a good sign. If we didn’t care and didn’t take any pride into that, it’d be a problem. But we do care and want to get better at that.” And now that Otto Porter is hurt by a recent injury, the reserves face even more pressure to step up when Nene and Wall need rest. How will Ramon Sessions fit in the rotation, taking on quick-slashing Raptors backups like Greivis Vasquez? Will Will Bynum's streaky shooting prove a liability for Washington?
6. The Washington bigs get lazy
I have video evidence to prove this point. In this game vs. the Wizard on January 31, the Raptors' Lowry drives hard to the bucket, drawing defenders. Nene doesn't seem committed to either Lowry or defending Patrick Patterson, who's hanging out near the three-point line. Once Nene moves close to Lowry, the Raptors' guard zips a pass to Patterson, who's wide open for the three. And it was Nene's fault:
If the Washington centres and power forwards get lazy on D, and can't force turnovers or even put a hand in someone's face during a shot, the Raptors will be walking all over the Wizards in this first round.
7. Toronto's stellar backups
Vasquez, Patterson, Williams, James Johnson and Tyler Hansborough all deserve a slow-clap for stepping up this year in their reserve role. All the players mentioned back scored when they needed to and/or defended their opponents like a boss. The Raptors get hustle from Hansborough, and smart shooting from Patterson. They get to the free-throw line thanks to Williams, and Vasquez can both nail the three and drive hard for one of his patented floaters. This is a bench that could be a starting five on many other teams, especially in the Eastern Conference, and I say that with zero hyperbole.
8. Redemption time for the Raptors
Paul Pierce blocked the potential game-winning shot by Kyle Lowry last year in Game 7 of the first round playoffs, when The Truth played for the Brooklyn Nets. Now as a Wizard, Pierce is already trash-talking the Raptors, and that can only fire up the Raps. Expect the Raptors to get angry at Pierce when it counts, such as aggressive double-teams in the block, and making sure he expends huge energy on defense.
Pierce's presence will get under the Raps skin, maybe, but in a good way. They want to get this albatross off their chest and finally get through a Paul Pierce time, without waiting until a Game 7 to do so.
9. Jonas vs. Gortat
Jonas Valanciunas and Marcin Gortat are two of the most talented centers in the league, but they are often under-utilized by their coaches. Jonas can get into foul trouble, and Gortat isn't quick enough to keep up with the younger centers in the NBA. But when Jonas is on, he's ON. Val can hook shot over the best of them, and when he drives hard, he often sinks his layups or gets to the line. Casey will likely order him to stay aggressive against Gortat or Nene, and mire the Wiz in foul trouble early.
Jonas recently got married, but his honeymoon is now over. It's time for him to show his Canadian fans and hometown friends and fam in Lithuania he's the real deal ready to dominate in the paint for the Raps.
Jonas Valanciunas vs Gortat
Jonas Valanciunas vs Gortat
Via NBA.com
10. Jurassic Park, The Sequel
It's been said over and over: Last year, Raptors fans shocked the league by being the most energetic and passionate zealots by crowding into the space outside the Air Canada Centre to watch the big-screen game live. Known as Jurassic Park, this fandom hot-zone will get even more frenzied this year, and having that loud loyalty behind them could give the Raptors an important edge as the home-courters. And remember, the Raptors don't just have Toronto behind them, but also all of Canada. #WeTheNorth has become a coast-to-coast phenomenon.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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