NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: (4) Toronto Raptors v. (5) Washington Wizards

High flier DeMar DeRozan failed to make his second straight All-Star team but is a staple in a high scoring Raptors' attack.

High flier DeMar DeRozan failed to make his second straight All-Star team but is a staple in a high scoring Raptors’ attack.

(4) Toronto Raptors v. (5) Washington Wizards

Toronto odds to win 2015 Title: 50/1
Washington odds to win 2015 Title: 75/1
Toronto odds to win East: 16/1
Washington odds to win East: 25/1

Odds c/o Bovada

Series Prices: TOR -190; WAS +161
c/o Bookmaker

The Toronto Raptors started the season 13-2 and appeared to be the team to beat in the East. Sanity prevailed as Toronto fell from the No. 1 spot early on to the No. 4 spot it’s in now.

However, the Raptors will still be favorites in this 4 vs. 5 matchup, according to live NBA odds at Bookmaker. The Raptors still are a long-shot to win the NBA title at 50/1, but stands a better chance than its opponent, the Wizards.

For an explanation of how to read NBA odds, we explain how NBA odds work.

The Raptors have a very interesting rotation that features a little bit of everything. For slashing athletes there are shooting guard/small forwards Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan, both high flying former dunk contest participants. Beyond their acrobatics though, are two topnotch defenders on a strong defensive team anchored by center Jonas Valanciunas.

Valanciunas is one of the top young 5-men in the Association, and this could be a chance to start to cash in on some overdue respect. He’s uniquely talented and coordinated and has the makings of a star. Jonas averaged 12 points, 8.7 rebound and 1.2 blocks this season, while substantiating this high assessment with his 20.60 PER (league average is 15). He’s also shot 61.6 percent from the floor in his past 10 games, and was 57.2 percent for the season. He hits free throws (.786) and does all of this in 26 minutes a night.

The low minutes are largely a result of the Raptors having plenty of big bodies behind him in the form of Chuck Hayes, Greg Stiemsma, and even forwards Patrick Patterson and Tyler Hansbrough. While the Raptors may not sport any high-end talent in the frontcourt, there is plenty of solid depth.

Most important for the Raptors is the dominance of Kyle Lowry. Lowry was rightfully selected to start for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game, and he’s had another stat stuffing year reflective of his versatility. Despite being a waterbed, Lowry averages nearly five rebounds per game while scoring 18 and dishing out seven assists. The Houston Rockets spent the first day of the last offseason not pursuing the big names, but going after Lowry, a former Rocket and thought-to-be missing piece from Houston’s attack.

Lowry is backed up by a more than capable point guard in Greivous Vasquez, who though slow footed is a great passer and smart defender. The Raptors essentially are a very well-balanced team that should still be considered a contender to win the East, notwithstanding that Bovada lists the futures odds for such at 16/1. For those bettors seeking a value bet on an upset in the East, the Raptors do have what it takes to beat both Atlanta and Cleveland, and the Raps are well-suited for playoff basketball, though defensive concerns (25th of 30 in defensive rating) are enough to warrant the longer-shot odds.

What the Raptors lack defensively, the Wizards bring in abundance. Washington ranked 5th in the NBA in defensive rating this season (103.0) while holding opponents to the 10th fewest points in the league (97.8). Accordingly, the Wizards will seek to slow the pace of this game, being an average paced team with a less than impressive offensive attack. While there is the brilliance of John Wall and some nice role players, the Wizards still ranked 22nd in offensive rating and scored 98 points per game this year, even having just a plus-0.7 point differential.

That factor alone speaks to Washington’s abilities to win close games as a 43-win team, but it doesn’t really inspire much confidence in its abilities to dominate a team like the Raptors. Indeed, Washington did lose all three matchups between these teams in the regular season and it’s difficult to envision a complete reversal of fates in this regard. John Wall is a special talent and great player, but aside from him the Wizards are counting too heavily on Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce to elevate one or all of their games to the level of a No. 2 scorer.

The Wizards big men are good defensively but offer no options to dump the ball to in the post, while the Raptors can seek to go to Valanciunas in the half court while also relying on Amir Johnson’s opportunity buckets or Patrick Patterson’s high post shooting. Though few are quick to think of 4 vs. 5 matchups as being clear-cut, this one really is.

Prediction: Raptors sweep Wizards

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Posted by on Apr 16 2015. Filed under Headlines, NBA. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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