The Toronto Raptors won eight of their final 11 games and finished as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Considering the way things played out they have to be confident heading in to their first round playoff series. Toronto will open the playoffs vs a Washington Wizards team that they swept in three meetings throughout their season series. Oddsmakers have installed the Raptors as 4.5 point favorites for game one and -185 for the series.
Eastern Conference – First Round Series
#4 Toronto Raptors vs. #5 Washington Wizards
(Toronto won season series 3-0)
Washington wasn’t nearly as good down the stretch as they lost three of their final four games to limp in to the playoffs. The Wizards gave star point guard John Wall the night off on Wednesday to rest for the postseason and they will need him at his best for game one as they try to steal away home court advantage with a win that would also give them a confidence boost and some momentum.
What It Will Take For The Raptors To Win
Any doubts about Kyle Lowry’s status heading in to the playoffs were answered when he scored 26 points with 7 assists and 4 rebounds in a 92-87 win over the Charlotte Hornets that marked Toronto’s franchise record 49th victory of the season. With Lowry and DeMar DeRozan healthy and playing at a high level the Raptors will be a tough matchup for Wall and Beal and they will have to carry the pace as the team’s biggest strength. Jonas Valanciunas has shown flashes of his ability throughout the year but will need to be tougher in the postseason where he will be asked to help shut down Gortat. Lou Williams has been an X-Factor all year as Toronto’s sixth man and he could really make his impact felt in this series.
What It Will Take For The Wizards To Win
If Washington is going to win this series they will need Wall to play at a superstar level . Wall averaged 17.6 points and 10 assists in the regular season and a Wizards offense that was relatively mediocre this season needs him to play at a high level in order to help carry them. Washington grinded out a number of wins this year with a top-10 defense but they will also need more players to step up at the other end of the floor and that will mean more from a supporting cast that includes Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce. Marcin Gortat and Nene match up well against the Raptors big man but they have to do a better job taking advantage down low after failing to capitalize during the regular season.
The Raptors were fortunate to lock up home advantage against an opponent they have had plenty of success against this season but they have to work to their strengths knowing they will get Washington’s best. Toronto gained some valuable experience in last year’s first-round playoff exit and that will work to their advantage against a Wizards team that will be able to give them a run for their money if Wall plays at an elite level.
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