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NBA 2017-18 Eastern Conference Outlook: People shouldn't overlook the Raptors

NBA 2017-18 Eastern Conference Outlook: People shouldn't overlook the Raptors

CSN is looking around the league as we prepare for the 2017-18 NBA season. Today, we break down the Toronto Raptors' outlook...

2016-17 record: 51-31, 3rd in East
Coach: Dwayne Casey
Key additions: SF C.J. Miles, SG K.J. McDaniels
Key losses: SF P.J. Tucker, PF Patrick Patterson, SF DeMarre Carroll
Projected lineup: PG Kyle Lowry, SG DeMar DeRozan, SF C.J. Miles, PF Serge Ibaka, C Jonas Valanciunas

Biggest questions:

1. How will Lowry bounce back?

The 2016-71 season was statistically the best of Lowry's career, as his 22.4 points per game, 46.4 percent shooting from the field and 41.2 percent from three were all personal highs. However, injuries to his right wrist and left ankle greatly affected how his season ended. He missed 21 regular season games due to the wrist and two playoff games because of the ankle. 

Lowry was a free agent this summer, but decided to re-sign with the Raptors on a three-year, $90 million deal. He's 31 and now playing under his first big contract. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure that comes with that.


2. What impact will Ibaka make?

Ibaka joined the Raptors in a trade deadline deal last February. After acquiring Ibaka, Toronto went 19-8 the rest of the regular season, a 58-win pace over a full 82 games. That was the second-best record in the NBA during that span behind only the Warriors and much of it was played without Lowry running point. Now after Ibaka re-signed on a three-year, $64 million deal, the Raptors get to see him in the mix for a full season.

3. Are the Raptors being overlooked?

The Raptors brought back Lowry and Ibaka, and already have DeMar DeRozan who made All-NBA in 2016-17, so the chances seem good the Raptors will be right back near the top of the Eastern Conference this upcoming season. Despite missing Lowry for a quarter of the year, they won 51 games last season and finished third in the East. If he is healthy, there's no reason to think they can't get back to being the team that won 56 games the year before. With all the attention on the Cavs and Celtics as the two top teams in the East from last year, and with all the praise the Wizards and Bucks are getting for being young teams on the rise, don't forget about the Raptors who probably as much of a chance to take advantage of an increasingly thin conference as anyone.



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Wizards vs. Pacers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Pacers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic and the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:


Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Season series on the line

The Wizards and Pacers square off for the third and final time this season on Saturday night and the game will represent the tiebreaker for the season series. The Wizards beat the Pacers in their first meeting on Feb. 5 and Indiana then got even on March 4. The first game did not feature Victor Oladipo. John Wall didn't play in either of them.

Whichever team wins on Saturday night will own the playoff tiebreaker, meaning that team will get the better seed in the even they finish with the same regular season record. Right now only one game separates the teams, so that could definitely come into play. With a win over the Pacers, the Wizards could also move into third place in the East. They would tie the Pacers by record and own the head-to-head series. The one variable there is the Cavs play the Bulls on Saturday. If they win and the Pacers lose, the Cavs will be in third.


Wizards have been struggling

The Wizards won their last game on the road against the Celtics, but have lost five of their last eight overall. They remain in good shape in the big picture, but could use some positive momentum. A win over the Pacers would certainly give them that with three off days awaiting on the other end before they head out to San Antonio to face the Spurs.

Defense has been the problem. During this eight-game stretch, they have allowed the second-most points in the paint per game (53.8), the ninth-most points per game (111.0) overall and the fourth-highest opponents shooting percentage (49.3). 


Pacers are tough

The Pacers may be missing two of their best big men on Saturday as Domantas Sabonis has been ruled out and Myles Turner is questionable. Both are nursing sprained left ankles. That bodes well for the Wizards' defense in the paint, but Indiana still has plenty of firepower.

Oladipo is having a terrific season with averages of 23.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game. There's also Bojan Bogdanovic, a former Wizards player who is averaging 14.0 points and shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from three this year. Bogdanovic has scored 20 points or more in each of his games against the Wizards this season. The Pacers as a team have won six of their last eight.


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Ramon Sessions signs with Wizards for rest of season, giving them long-term insurance for John Wall

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Ramon Sessions signs with Wizards for rest of season, giving them long-term insurance for John Wall

The Wizards have signed point guard Ramon Sessions for the rest of the 2017-18 season following the expiration of his second 10-day contract, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

Sessions, 31, has played in five games for the Wizards this season with averages of 7.2 points and 3.4 assists. He spent 13 games with the Knicks previously this season before first signing with the Wizards on Feb. 23. He signed his second 10-day contract on March 5.

The Wizards were only permitted to sign Sessions to two consecutive 10-day contracts per league rules. They had to decided at the end of the second deal whether to sign him for the rest of the season or release him to free agency.

"His reputation is amazing and rightfully so. He showed me and the staff that he comes and does his job every day," head coach Scott Brooks said. "He was more than deserving of the opportunity to stay here all year."


Sessions is eligible for their playoff roster if they do indeed make the postseason, as he was let go by New York before March 1. That was always going to be a consideration in their plans at the end of his second 10-day contract. If they were to go out and get someone else, the March 1 deadline would come back into play.

Sessions gives the Wizards depth at the point guard position along with Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier, who have collectively held down the fort with John Wall out recovering from left knee surgery. By keeping Sessions, the Wizards have another backup plan in place.

Brooks said on Friday that Wall will be placed back into the starting lineup immediately when he's ready to return. That was expected and it will have a domino effect on Sessions and the other guards once he is back. The minutes may dry up completely for Sessions, a 10-year NBA journeyman.

"You're gonna have guys that are going to have to be good teammates," Brooks said, suggesting the playing time would go away. "Sacrificing is a big part of this league."


Satoransky will be the primary backup to Wall and Sessions may be out of minutes alongside Frazier. Brooks did, however, note that Satoransky could spend time at shooting guard and small forward. That could theoretically open the door for Sessions or Frazier to get playing time.

Whether Sessions plays or not, he's happy to be in the fold. Though he often said the uncertainty of the 10-day deal didn't weight on him, he admitted on Friday that it wasn't easy to navigate.

"This was my first time doing a 10-day and those were probably the longest 20 days I've been a part of in the NBA," he said. "I'm just excited to be back here. D.C. is my home." 

The news was first reported by the Washington Post.

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