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How the Wizards can take advantage of the Raptors' pick and roll aggression

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The Raptors like to get aggressive with ball handlers on the pick and roll. The Wizards need to use their aggression against them and get creative on the offensive end to win the series.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the year the Wizards have never really been above the middle of the pack as an offensive team. Finishing the year ranked 19th in offensive efficiency just behind the Brooklyn Nets and just in front of the Boston Celtics. They're team that focuses on getting the ball down low to their inside players and using an inside-out philosophy.

They've traditionally been enamored with long-two point jump shots and "taking what the defense gives". The defense rarely gifts the opposition with solid shots at the rim or wide open threes--both of which are staples in the NBA's most prolific offenses. The Wizards would rather play a brand of bully-ball that can get the job done at times, but isn't always useful against certain opponents and can be pretty easy to guard.

The Raptors play an aggressive style of defense. When the ball is stuck in one player's hands, like a pack of wolves ready to pounce on their next meal, the Raptors load up on one side of the floor and clog the lane. This makes options scare for the opposition.

Nene doesn't really have any options here after he catches the ball at the elbow. He manages to get a pass through the three Raptors in front of him, but it's an incredibly difficult thread to Andre Miller and he isn't able to handle it.

Miller did a great job of finding a lane on a cut and creating some space for a play to be made, but still, it's a difficult one and not an offensive look you'd want to generate consistently. The Raptors operate this way when the ball is still and isolated, but the Raptors, like most other defenses, are vulnerable when they have more than one threat in their laps.

The Raptors like to get aggressive in pick and roll coverage and this is where the Wizards will be able to create openings for great offensive possessions. If they truly are taking what the defense gives them here, they should fair well. The Raptors generally don't give up threes and opponents only shoot 34.6 percent from deep against them, but the opportunities are going to be there at the rim where opponents shoot 60 percent against them.

The Raptors like to give hedges against pick and roll ball handlers. Depending on the big man, it'll be a hard or a soft hedge. Patrick Patterson, for example, will give harder hedges because of his foot speed. Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas will show, but won't really stay high against the ball handler for long because of their slower recovery speed.

Either way, whether the hedge is soft or hard, this leaves the Raptors vulnerable at the rim with a big man above the free throw line. That dangerous, and sometimes effective, strategy can leave them in a situation like this.

Wall is able to beat the Raptors' pick and roll coverage because of Valanciunas' hedge. Wall rejects Nene's screen and finds himself on an island with Lou Williams. He even moves away from the screen a bit early, but he knows Valanciunas can't recover into the lane quickly enough to make him pay for it.

With everyone's back turned to the ball, no one is able to pick Wall up before he's at the rim and they have no choice but to foul. Wall makes the field goal and gets the foul, which is the worst possible result for the Raptors. They open themselves up to plays like this, though, when they hedge their big men above the free throw line.

Since the purpose of the hedge is corralling the ball handler and trying to force them to hold on to the ball a second longer, the Raptors leave themselves vulnerable to wide open big men flashing toward the rim. If the Wizards' ball handlers are able to move the ball quickly, they'll make them pay.

Because Nene slips the screen and dives down quickly, he's wide open without having made contact with anyone. Johnson isn't able to sink down the floor quickly enough with him and Patrick Patterson is focused on Gortat, who moves toward the ball faking a screen. Beal notices Nene wide open under the rim and hits him for an easy two points.

Every bucket won't be this easy against this team. Amir Johnson adjusted on the very next play and dropped to the rim. But that signaled Beal to deliver the ball to Gortat who handed the ball to Wall. It created a great look for the Wizards that was only foiled by an illegal screen set by Gortat.

If Wall is able to use that screen and turn the corner, Nene's defender is forced to come out and help against the drive. Even if he doesn't, Wall is in a position to throw a skip pass to Beal for a wide open three.

The Raptors will continue to open themselves up to the Wizards creating two on one situations, four on three situations and different mismatches because of the hedge. They're essentially throwing two defenders at the ball. The Wizards will have to move quickly and execute, but they'll be able to create open looks and find easy shots.

This offense has struggled in the past, but they will still be able to establish open looks against this Raptors defense. If they move Paul Pierce to the power forward position or play Drew Gooden a bit to space things out, things could really open up for them. They just need to make sure their execution level is top notch.