Here we go again! The #1 seed, Toronto Raptors will face the #8 seed, Washington Wizards in the Round 1 of the NBA playoffs. To many Raptors fans, the Wizards are all too familiar, that’s because the Raptors faced the Wizards back in 2015. The core players from the Wizards remains the same, including John Wall, Bradley Beal and others.
Last time, the Wizards swept the Raptors 4-0 in the series. Despite the difference in the Eastern Conference standings, is the Washington Wizards capable of upsetting the #1 seed Toronto Raptors? In my opinion, the answer is “YES!”, it’s possible and definitely doable.
Although the Wizards finished in the 8th spot, that also due to a number of injuries, including its franchise player, John Wall, who is slowly recovering into his true form. If Wall going to play well, look out! Raptors maybe in deep trouble.
Here is the projected starting lineup between the Raptors & the Wizards:
C – Jonas Valanciunas C – Marcin Gortat
PF – Serge Ibaka PF – Markieff Morris
SF – OG Anunoby SF – Otto Porter Jr.
SG – DeMar DeRozan SG – Bradley Beal
PG – Kyle Lowry PG – John Wall
X-Factor for the Wizards
Guys like Kelly Oubre Jr. or Ian Mahinmi will be a force for the Wizards. I think the Wizards will be using its front court, playing a very physical game and being aggressive in the paint against the Raptors front court. Ian Mahinmi, if many Raptors fans recalled, he had a hell of a series against the Raptors when he was still with the Indiana Pacers, which went neck-and-neck with the Raptors in Round 1 of the 2016 playoffs until the Raptors beat Indiana in 7 games.
X-Factor for the Raptors
Raptors 2nd Unit, aka “Bench Mob” rotation was super deadly in the regular season. The KEY questions will be….i
Is Coach Casey going to let the Bench Mob continue to play a free flowing type of game comes playoffs?
Will Coach Casey shortened his bench and not let the 2nd unit play that much or simply kick 1 or 2 guys out of the 2nd rotation (which is very common for many NBA team comes playoffs).
I think Norman Powell will be a KEY X-Factor, although he struggles big time in the regular season, we know Norman came through for the team when the team needed him most. And he isn’t afraid to make those game-changing shots. There is also a chance some of the younger players in the 2nd unit maybe nervous and lack confidence as the playoffs worn out, so Norman will be key. It’s nice to continue to start OG Anunoby to guard the Wizards players such as Otto Porter Jr. coz of OG’s lengthy arms and defense. However, if OG struggles early on, if I am the coach, I would explore the possibility of starting Powell instead. Trust me, Norman is better than just playing piano in a GoDaddy commercial.
Honestly, the starting 5 for both teams are neck and neck. They are very evenly out. Jonas and Gortat are pretty much similar in their skill set. Ibaka and Morris are both similar as well, with inside-outside shooting game. Otto is slightly better than OG. Beal and Wall and DeRozan and Lowry are both solid back court combos.
In order for the Raptors to prevail and beat out the Wizards? The Raptors definitely need to stick to their cultural re-set game plan and stop making the predictable game plays to have DeRozan or Lowry taking a stupid 18-footer with an ISO. Stop the stupid ISOs.
Also, let the Raptors 2nd Unit to play its tried, tested, free-flowing game, the 2nd unit, in my opinion will be the difference maker in this series. They have a better bench than the Wizards and hopefully, they play well enough so let the starters to rest up and be ready in the 4th quarter of every game.
But back to the question, can the #8 Wizards upset #1 Raptors in this round 1 playoff series? Most definitely. The last time a #8 seed dethroned a #1 seed was back in 2006-2007 season when the #8 Golden State Warriors defeated the #1 Dallas Mavericks. And I think Wizards is capable of repeating history once again in the NBA playoff history.