Preview: Washington Wizards head to Toronto for rematch with reigning champs

The Washington Wizards will take on Pascal Siakam and the 2019 reigning NBA champs, the Toronto Raptors.

Things are trending down for the Washington Wizards after a loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.

Recently back from injury, Bradley Beal is in somewhat of a shooting slump. Washington’s second unit has suddenly forgotten how to score. And the defense is, well, nothing’s really changed there. It’s bad.

Still, the Wizards can turn things around in their rematch against the Toronto Raptors. Earlier this season, the Wizards lost their first matchup with the Raptors 122-118.

Toronto is similar to Washington in that they’ve had their fair share of injuries this season.

For their game against the Wizards, the Raptors will be without starting point guard Fred VanVleet. This will help to even the play for the Wizards, who have fallen to 5-16 on the road.

 

Toronto Raptors to Watch

Pascal Siakam is the man to watch against the Wizards. He’s grown into a full-fledged number one option since Kawhi Leonard’s exit for the Los Angeles Clippers this past offseason.

Siakam is averaging 24.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists on the year. All of those are career-highs.

He can score from every level of the floor and is no doubt going to expose the Wizards’ weak perimeter defense. Siakam shoots an impressive 39.1 percent on 2.4 three-point attempts per game. He missed Toronto’s last game against the Wizards but is coming off of a 21-point performance in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Elsewhere, watch for Serge Ibaka to cause some problems for Washington in the post. An 11-year veteran, Ibaka’s seen somewhat of a resurgence this season with Toronto. Ibaka has a double-double in eight of his last nine games and has matched his career-high scoring average this season with 15.1 per game.

Key to Win: Rotations

Wednesday’s loss to the Bulls can’t be solely placed on head coach Scott Brooks, but some of his rotations were a bit odd, to say the least.

Washington rolled with a new starting lineup: Isaiah Thomas, Gary Payton II, Bradley Beal, Thomas Bryant, and Ian Mahinmi. Before Wednesday’s game, that lineup had shared zero minutes on the floor together. And things only got worse from there.

While many fans (including myself) had yet again fallen for the idea that Isaiah Thomas was amidst a renaissance, the sad truth is he’ll never get back to his level of play pre-injury.

If he’s going to survive this roster past the trade deadline, Brooks has got to learn to rely on him purely as a scoring punch for the second unit and give most of his starting minutes to Ish Smith. The Wizards’ backup point guard was key in two of their recent wins over the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics.

Next: Will John Wall still be an elite player?

Per Basketball-Reference, Smith is averaging 15.3 points, 6.2 assists, and 1.1 steals per 36 minutes. The need for his passing and ability to penetrate the paint in the starting lineup are impossible to overlook at this point in the season.

Brooks has got to get a hold on his rotations if the Wizards hope to improve their dismal record in away games this season. They can start with a win over the Raptors. Tip-off is at 7:00 pm est.

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