Network Notebook: NBA Preview…Toronto at Washington
In the first five days of NBA Playoff action, there were only two upsets. Both in the same series! The underdog Washington Wizards shocked Toronto in the first game of the playoffs back on Saturday…and then shocked them again Tuesday night.
The Raptors blew a “must-win” game at home, and are now starting two of those in the face in the nation’s capital Friday night and Sunday. This is our first chance to check in on this series. So, there’s a lot to talk about. We begin with JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats from the regular season. Then, we’ll look at the boxscore stats from both games in Toronto.
Toronto: 108.1 per 100 possessions (ranked #3 in the NBA)
Washington: 101.8 per 100 possessions (ranked #19 in the NBA)
You’ll see in a moment that this was going to be a series riding on Toronto’s top five offense and Washington’s top five defense. Defense wins in the playoffs! We keep telling you that, and have been for years here in the NOTEBOOK. Of course, defense doesn’t necessarily win every single game. Toronto will have to show more than they have to this point in the series with their shot-making if they’re going to earn a return trip north of the border. Edge on this side of the floor to Toronto…but not one that’s manifested itself so far.
Toronto: 104.8 per 100 possessions (ranked #23 in the NBA)
Washington: 100.0 per 100 possessions (ranked #5 in the NBA)
If you have the #23 offense in the league while playing an East-heavy schedule, then you’re really going to be in trouble in a postseason when smart teams pound on your weakness. Washington isn’t particularly explosive scoring-wise outside of the raw speed of John Wall. But, they’ve looked like a machine so far in this series! Big edge on this side of the floor to the Wiz…knowing that three of the last five games in the series will be on their home floor if needed.
Toronto was near league average. Washington was one of the slower teams in the playoffs. So, again, ideally suited for the postseason! Slow teams who play great defense fit the right profile as a general rule. What happened in the first two games is just the most recent example (as well as the two games in Memphis).
Against the Spread
Both teams were relative disasters against market expectations during the regular season. Frankly, neither was at a playoff caliber level for weeks at a time midseason. Washington has clearly lifted its game at just the right time (though their backers are already broke!). Toronto regressed from a level that already wasn’t very impressive. The market has misjudged both of these teams for much of the season. Is it time to take Washington more seriously as a threat to Atlanta in this half of the Eastern brackets?
GAME ONE STATS
Washington 93, Toronto 86 (in overtime)
Shooting Pct: Washington 39%, Toronto 38%
Three-Pointers: Washington 6/21, Toronto 6/29
Free Throws: Washington 9/15, Toronto 10/14
Rebounds: Washington 61, Toronto 48
Turnovers: Washington 10, Toronto 12
Vegas Line: Toronto by 4, total of 194.5
Washington actually blew a big fourth quarter lead, then rebounded to squeeze out a win in overtime. Neither team shot particularly well. That was partly because the refs weren’t calling many fouls. Washington owned the boards. Defense and rebounding! Horrible debut for what was supposed to be the electrifying offense of Toronto.
GAME TWO STATS
Washington 117, Toronto 106
Shooting Pct: Washington 53%, Toronto 49%
Three-Pointers: Washington 10/21, Toronto 7/18
Free Throws: Washington 23/34, Toronto 21/32
Rebounds: Washington 45, Toronto 28
Turnovers: Washington 15, Toronto 10
Vegas Line: Toronto by 5, total of 193.5
Both teams shot much better…partly because refs decided to call fouls on clutching and grabbing. So…free throw totals shot up…shooting percentages shot up…and scoring exploded compared to the opener. But, still…it was Washington owning the boards in a slaughter, and Washington forcing the lesser of the two shooting percentages on its opponent.
Friday’s Vegas Line: Washington by 3.5, total of 195.5
The whole world wants to bet initial series favorite Toronto in the must-win spot. Clearly, the personnel matchups have favored Washington by so much that a line of only -3.5. seems way too low! So…which way to you want to go? Do you want to bet the bounce back team that already didn’t bounce back? Or, a Wizards team that could easily fall prey to relaxing with what must seem like an insurmountable lead?
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his on-site sources to get the right read on both teams. This could very easily be an “intangible” play based on what those sources report. You can purchase the final word for Friday right here at the website with your credit card. Also on the radar…Houston at Dallas and the LA Clippers at San Antonio in a Texas twinbill.
If you have any questions about extended service, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours Friday. Get locked in now for great rates in basketball, baseball, and horse racing’s Triple Crown!
Back to the preview grindstone tomorrow as our daily NBA Playoff coverage continues…
Saturday: Atlanta at Brooklyn (series discussion and a review of Games One and Two)
Sunday: Cleveland at Boston Game Four Preview
Monday: Either Game Four of Memphis/Portland or Game Five of Milwaukee/Chicago
Tuesday: Probably Game Five of the San Antonio/LA Clippers series
Wednesday: Game Five of Washington/Toronto, Brooklyn/Atlanta, or Portland/Memphis
Thursday: Game Six Preview of the best remaining matchup
Friday: Game Six Preview of the best remaining matchup
Will we even have any Game Sevens next weekend? Let’s see if the next few days become more compelling than the first few days of the 2015 postseason. Not a high hurdle to clear! Of course…if you’re winning while you watch…that’s plenty of thrills already. Make sure you GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!
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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
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