ZICARELLI: Redemption time? Raptors-Wizards might be epic

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Jonas Valanciunas didn’t must suppose lengthy when requested concerning the Washington Wizards, a well-known post-season foe who will meet the Raptors as soon as once more on this spring’s first spherical.

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Valanciunas is aware of all concerning the ache the Wizards inflicted when Washington swept the Raptors three years in the past, understands the challenges that await the Raptors and the explosiveness embodied within the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.

It has the makings of an epic, drawn-out collection the place seeding will get thrown out the window. Toronto earned the No. 1 seed within the Jap Convention following its 59-win season and, with it, home-court benefit. However dwelling courtroom is helpful solely when defending one’s dwelling flooring, which has traditionally been an Achilles heel of the Raptors franchise.

Toronto and Washington cut up the season collection, however Wall was unavailable for all 4 video games.

“They’re a very good workforce,” Valanciunas mentioned. “We’re not underestimating them and we all know it’s going to be arduous enjoying in opposition to them. We all know they’re robust, bodily enjoying workforce. We’re prepared, we all know how we’re going to play and we’re going to play effectively, play arduous.”

Beal makes a cross as he’s guarded by Lowry, Poeltl on Feb. 1, 2018 (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Valanciunas has been round lengthy sufficient to know the NBA’s second season is a contemporary begin. Data, seedings, regardless of the case could also be, are rendered meaningless.

When the Raptors did make a run all the way in which to the convention last two springs in the past, they used dwelling courtroom to win Sport 7s, first over Indiana after which Miami, earlier than shedding in six to LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

“A brand new season has began,” Valanciunas added. “We now concentrate on Washington and we’ll do every thing to organize for Washington, examine the gamers, get collectively and watch movie, get the schemes and play arduous, play with all coronary heart.”

Toronto’s facet of the Jap bracket will not be simple. Cleveland and Indiana — which gained the season collection over the Cavs, for what it’s price — are grouped with the Raptors and Wizards.

You get a way that if Toronto can get previous Washington and LeBron, there’s a very good probability the Raptors will probably be within the NBA last.

However first issues first.

“It’s Washington and that’s all that issues,” Valanciunas mentioned. “That’s our focus and nothing else. We’ve got to win 4 instances in opposition to Washington. We’ve got to do every thing and concentrate on Washington. That’s the problem.”

C.J. Miles will make his playoff debut as a Raptor. He was with the Pacers when Toronto eradicated Indy again in 2016.

Everybody who’s requested to step on the ground for the Raptors should have an effect on the sport, whether or not it’s making a cease, getting a rebound, setting a tough display, making that further cross that results in an open look.

Miles isn’t any exception. What Miles should do is make photographs and unfold the ground. If he’s making photographs from distance, the Raptors turn into extra harmful.

“Depth,” Miles mentioned of the playoffs. “The depth modifications. The eye to element turns into extra vital. Every part is a giant play, clearly each recreation is to get to that final objective and now it’s actually each participant, each quarter, each half, each recreation is a step nearer to that focus.”

When knowledgeable of the Raptors’ first-round opponent, Miles’ first thought was on Washington’s guards.

“With John Wall and Bradley Beal they’ve acquired guys who could make photographs for guys round them,” Miles mentioned. “They’ve acquired bigs who can run, they’re gifted. I felt like irrespective of who it was it will be some kind of expertise able to hurting you. That’s why these groups get to the playoffs.

“We undoubtedly must include these guards and simply play arduous.”

POELTL POWER?

Rather a lot has modified for each the Raptors and Wizards since they final met within the post-season. A cultural reset in Toronto, a training change in Washington.

There’s no Paul Pierce to cope with this time round, a veteran who performed basketball’s thoughts recreation in addition to the Reality performed the precise recreation.

One of many greatest variations heading into this spring’s best-of-seven opening-round collection, which ideas off Saturday evening on the ACC, is the presence of Jakob Poeltl, a kind of X-factors whose play could shift the collection if he stays out of foul hassle.

As he confirmed in Wednesday evening’s common season last, the Jak Assault can play at a excessive stage, placing a physique on his man, setting screens, scoring across the rim on put-backs.

He’s the right complement for Jonas Valanciunas, a succesful bench piece who can enter video games when the large Lithuanian isn’t utilizing his toes on choose and roll defence.

“I believed he was glorious,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey mentioned of Poeltl’s play in Toronto’s 116-109 street loss to the Warmth. “I believed he did a significantly better job utilizing his physique in there.”

Poeltl should be good, at instances higher than good, in rebounding the basketball in opposition to the Wizards.

In his post-season debut final spring, the rookie performed a complete of 26 minutes. Poeltl is now in retailer for a larger workload.

fzicarelli@postmedia.com



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