Series Preview: Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards
*Photo via USA Today
In the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Toronto Raptors (4th seed) will face the Washington Wizards (5th seed). This game will be the official start to the 2015 NBA playoffs, as tipoff is scheduled for Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
This series will be an entertaining one to say the least. There are a lot of young talents in this series, such as DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal, John Wall and Kyle Lowry, and they should provide us with a nice up-tempo series.
Wizards forward Paul Pierce also added a little excitement to this matchup with comments he made earlier this week to ESPN.com.
"We haven't done particularly well against Toronto, but I don't feel they have the 'It' that makes you worried," Pierce said.
Some of the Raptors players took exception to that. According to the Toronto Star, DeRozan stated, “He’s always got to say something.” Lowry also added that they do have what it takes, saying, “Just let him talk. I couldn’t care less what he says.”
Look for the Raptors to come out with intensity in this series, particularly in game one at home. Pierce is right, however, as the Wizards have not played well against the Raptors, losing all three matchups this season:
Nov. 7th, the Raptors won easily 103-84.
Jan. 31st, the Raptors won 120-116.
Feb. 11th, the Raptors won 95-93.
Each team has pros and cons in this series that can give them the edge over the other. Let's first look at the higher seeded team, the Raptors.
The Raptors have great guard play with Lowry and DeRozan. Both of these young studs are all-star caliber players that can cause problems for the Wizards. They are quick and athletic, and if they speed up the tempo, they can cause problems for the Wizards.
Their major flaw, however, is their frontcourt. Nene and Marcin Gortat are two skilled big men for Washington, and they will have big games against the front line of the Raptors. Rebounding will be crucial in this series, and the Wizards can definitely do that.
Lou Williams is the X-factor for them. If he plays consistently off the bench and provides extra scoring, the Raptors can come away with the series.
The Wizards have a lot of advantages in this series. Both of these teams are inexperienced in the playoffs, but the Wizards have Pierce. He is a champion and has incredible poise, and if he is healthy, he can push the Wizards over the edge.
Wall is the best point guard in this series and has matured from last year’s playoffs. Along with Beal, Wall and Pierce make the Wizards an incredible threat. However, the Wizards lack a strong bench. The Raptors have Williams and will utilize him fully when the second unit comes in, and the Wizards don't have an answer for him.
The X-factor player for this team is not Pierce, it's Beal. If Beal can average around 16 points and score mostly in the first three quarters while Pierce takes over in the fourth, the Wizards will win.
The schedule for the series is as follows:
Game One: Saturday, 12:30 p.m., at Toronto
Game Two: Tuesday, 4/21, 8 p.m. at Toronto
Game Three: Friday, 4/23, 8 p.m. at Washington
Game Four: Sunday, 4/25, 7 p.m. at Washington
Both of these teams are relatively young, but the Wizards have some championship experience on their roster so they have a slight edge. However, if this series is anything like the season series, the Raptors have a shot. Look for some close games that will go down to the wire.
With all that said, I believe that the Wizards will win this in six games. Pierce is too great and too elite to not have a major impact in this series. Along with the young dynamic point guard Wall, and prolific scorer Beal, the Wizards may be too much for the young Raptors to handle. If the games are close within the last two minutes, look for Pierce to close.
Tune in to game one on Saturday, only on ESPN.