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Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards, NBA Playoffs 2015: Series preview, schedule and prediction

The Wizards and Raptors will try to make up for a disappointing second half of the season with a series win.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors and Wizards looked like legitimate contenders early in the season. They had brought back most of the players from the past year and were racking up wins at a high pace. It all proved to be an illusion, as Toronto's defense fell apart and the Wizards' lack of depth came back to haunt them. Now they are facing each other in a first round series that seems inconsequential, though there's always room for a playoff renaissance.

The Wizards posted a sub .500 record since the NBA All-Star break and there were rumblings of internal conflict. Coach Randy Wittman's old school approach has limited the team's ceiling on offense, as Washington under him has skewed three-pointers in favor of long mid-range jumpers and plays with two traditional big men at all times. What makes the Wizards dangerous is the presence of John Wall, one of the league's best players, and a stout defense, which can lock down when the starters are in and everyone is focused.

The Raptors are on the opposite range of the spectrum, boasting an elite offense and a bad defense. There is a lot of depth in Toronto's roster and even more scoring power. DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams can go off at any time and they don't need anyone to set them up. On the other end their flaws make a Wizards upset possible. There is no elite rim protector or lockdown perimeter player and they allow a lot of offensive rebounds, which could provide precious extra possessions for an anemic offense like Washington's. The Raptors should advance but it likely won't be an easy series.

THE MATCHUP

  • Raptors (49-33, expected record 49-33) vs. Wizards (46-36, expected record 43-39)
  • Raptors' offensive efficiency: 108.1 | Wizards' offensive efficiency: 101.8
  • Raptors' defensive efficiency: 104.8 | Wizards' defensive efficiency: 100
  • Season series: 3-0 Raptors. Toronto crushed the Wizards the first time they met in the season but narrowly won the other two games, needing overtime in one and winning by two in the other.

4 questions that'll decide this series

We asked our Raptors site Raptors HQ and our Wizards site Bullets Forever to give us the lowdown on these two teams.

1. What is your team's biggest advantage in this series?

Raptors HQ: Home court. The numbers have pointed to a decline in teams dominating at home, but the Raptors will have a notable home court advantage in the playoffs. Especially if it comes down to a Game 7.

Bullets Forever: The Wizards' biggest advantage against the Raptors is their size. What they lack in floor spacing they make up for with rebounding, especially against Toronto. Marcin Gortat, Nene, Kris Humphries and Drew Gooden will ensure the Wizards get extra opportunities when their shot doesn't fall. It's not a surprise they out-rebounded the Raptors all three times they played this season.

2. What is your team's biggest disadvantage in this series?

RHQ: Defense. The Raptors are a bottom-10 defensive team and the Wizards have individual creators like John Wall, Bradley Beal and even Paul Pierce, who can break down our perimeter defense. I wouldn't trust Toronto with a double-digit lead during games.

BF: The Wizards' biggest disadvantage against the Raptors will be their bench. They've been competent offensively at times, but they're a turnstile on defense, especially with Garrett Temple out, which isn't a good look against Lou Williams and company

3. Who is the X-Factor that needs to step up?

RHQ: Lou Williams. Assuming Kyle Lowry is healthy, and DeMar DeRozan puts together a consistent series, Lou has the chance to swing the series with his shot making and ability to draw fouls.

BF: The Wizards need a huge series from Paul Pierce. He was a huge part of why the Nets got past Toronto last season, and he can still provide a big boost in that role, creating spacing for John Wall and Bradley Beal to operate offensively, and limiting Patrick Patterson defensively. He hasn't been used as a stretch for much in the regular season, but he could be a real game-changer in that role in the playoffs.

4. What is your prediction?

RHQ: Raptors in six. Even though Toronto has been mediocre since January, I'm not sure Washington has been any better.

BF: Raptors his will be a series where we'll be reminded of all the things that make the Wizards and Raptors incredibly tantalizing and incredibly frustrating. It's hard to see either team getting out of their own way enough to win this series decisively. In a battle of two teams that have struggled the past few months, it's hard to go against the team that won all three head-to-head meetings and finished with the better record.

Predictions

Ziller
Flannery
Prada
O'Donnell
Bullets Forever
Raptors HQ
IN 7
IN 7
IN 6
IN 6
IN 7
IN 6

SCHEDULE (all times ET)

Game 1: Saturday, April 18. Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON. 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 2: Tuesday, April 21. Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON. 8 p.m. (NBATV)

Game 3: Friday, April 24. Verizon Center, Washington DC. 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 4: Sunday, April 26. Verizon Center, Washington DC. 7 p.m. (TNT)

Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, April 29. Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON. TBA.

Game 6 (if necessary): Friday, May 1. Verizon Center, Washington DC. TBA.

Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, May 3. Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON. TBA