Game 4 of the Eastern conference first round series between the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors is on Sunday evening with the Canadian team needing a win to avoid getting swept and to extend the series.
What do the Raptors have left? They gave it a pretty good go – especially DeMar DeRozan – in the early part of Game 3 in Washington, but ultimately the clutch shooting and experience of Paul Pierce helped to finish that game off in the fourth quarter for the Wizards. DeRozan had 20 points in the first quarter of that impressive start, but he could only muster a further 12 points in the remaining three quarters as Toronto were revealed as a team severely lacking in depth.
More desperately, Toronto’s defense has been completely insufficient so far in this series. It was always known to be a little bit of a weakness for this team, but John Wall in particular has been able to pick this defense to pieces and is averaging 13.3 assists per game as the chief architect, as well as averaging more than 18 points.
They’ll need to play in a combative way and DeRozan really needs Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams to step up and score some big points playing alongside him in the backcourt. Williams in particular has been completely nullified so far in this series and the sixth man of the year has to have some sort of impact.
The Wizards had an up and down regular season, but three games into their postseason and there’s some evidence to suggest that they could be a threat to upset their opponent in the next round. Washington has played tough defensive basketball, Wall is controlling the pace of the game offensively and Pierce has emerged as the team’s closer offensively.
Perhaps Toronto were something of a team for the taking and there are still some questions to be answered by this group offensively moving forward. For now, Marcin Gortat is providing excellent production from the center position and Bradley Beal has been scoring points including a 28-point effort in Game 2. Beal’s production really takes the pressure off of Wall and gives Washington arguably the best backcourt duo in the Eastern conference.
Betting Preview: Washington (-6) vs Toronto
The gap between these two teams is not as great as the current series score suggests. Perhaps the Raptors will get swept, but DeMar DeRozan and his team were pretty good in the first half of Game 3 and we still believe that the Raptors are more than capable of winning a couple of games in this series. Dwane Casey’s team will play strong enough to beat this spread – even if it is only for pride’s sake.
The Pick: Toronto (+6) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 43-35