Raptors: 48-33 (4th place in Eastern Conference)
Wizards: 46-36 (5th place in Eastern Conference)
Toronto won the regular season series 3-0.
Raptors: 108.1 points scored per 100 possessions (3rd in NBA); 104.8 points allowed per 100 possessions (23rd in NBA).
Wizards: 101.9 points scored per 100 possessions (19th in NBA); 100.0 points allowed per 100 possessions (5th in NBA).
THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES
Does offense win, or does defense: The Wizards struggle to score at times, and the Raptors can’t stop anybody. John Wall was second in the league in assists behind only Chris Paul, so he knows how to distribute when the defense takes the ball out of his hands. It’s unclear if Toronto will be able to slow Wall or Bradley Beal, but if the Wizards backcourt runs wild on the suspect defense of the Raptors, home court advantage could disappear in one of the first two games of the series.
Paul Pierce: After averaging just 5.6 points on 32 percent shooting over his last 10 games of the regular season (via NBA.com’s John Schuhmann), it’s worth wondering why Pierce is running his mouth. “We haven’t done particularly well against Toronto, but I don’t feel they have the ‘It’ that makes you worried,” he said, which caused DeMar DeRozan to fire back before the playoff matchups were finalized. “Paul Pierce has always gotta say something. Just let him talk. I could care less what he said. He’d just better hope Chicago wins (against Atlanta) or whatever has got to happen so he won’t see what ‘It’ is.” Rhetoric aside, the Wizards are going to need Pierce to be more of a factor to be able to consistently compete in this series.
Raptors bench: Toronto’s second-most used lineup features Lou Williams, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, James Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough. While not a murderer’s row of household names, this group managed to post a net rating of +17.7 in 229 minutes on the season (via SI.com). The Wizards are not a deep team, and things get thin for them pretty fast once they need to insert the reserves. This could be a real advantage for Toronto in the series, and will remain something to watch.
Neither of these teams have looked all that capable for the bulk of the second half of the season, but Wall is the best player in this series, so I’ll look to him to find a way to get the job done.
Wizards in 7.
Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.
Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.
At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.
Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.
As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.
Marc Stein of The New York Times:
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.
The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.
Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.
New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.
Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.
How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.
The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.
Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.
The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.
Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.
But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.
Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?
Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.
It was a trade rumor that kind of came out of nowhere — maybe more as a thought exercise for Celtics fans hoping to move on from Gordon Hayward — but it got traction: Victor Oladipo reportedly wanted out of Indiana.
Not true, Oladipo said.
Oladipo jumped on Instagram Live with rapper Fat Joe and shot down the rumors (hat tip Clutch Points):
“I’m a Pacer. I’m a Pacer…
“Those rumors on the internet, I don’t know where they’re coming from, I’m just focused on getting my knee right for next year.”
He said later in the interview he wants a ring, he wants “hardware” because that is needed to show you are one of the greats, and he would consider leaving the Pacers to get it. But that wasn’t a short-term thing. (Also, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, John Stockton, Elgin Baylor and a lot of other guys would like to talk with you about that attitude.)
Oladipo returned mid-season from his knee injury to a Pacers’ team that finished as the four seed in the East but got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat.
Oladipo never quite returned to his All-NBA form after coming back from injury and averaged just 14.5 points a game in the 19 regular season games he did play. Oladipo is owed $21 million next season, the last year of his current deal.
Whether he wants out of Indiana or not, at $21 million and with questions about just what level of player he is post-injury, there is not much of a trade market for Victor Oladipo. Indiana more than likely runs it back under a new coach — who has yet to be chosen — and banks on a healthy Oladipo helping the team make the next step.