Looking to pick up where they left off before the All-Star break, the Toronto Raptors roll into the Verizon Center to face the 13th-place—but much-improved—Washington Wizards.
While the Raps are 11 games under .500 and the Wizards are 21 below, these two teams have been playing quality basketball recently, in a large part due to the presence of two potential franchise players. Toronto, still dreaming of a playoff spot, is 5-2 since the acquisition of Rudy Gay in a three-team deal that saw the exit of cornerstones Jose Calderon and Ed Davis. Luckily, and to the great surprise of many, John Lucas III has been shining as the new backup point guard, and the return of Jonas Valanciunas from injury has vacated the hole in the frontcourt left by Davis.
The Wizards, meanwhile, are 10-8 since the return of their starting point guard, John Wall. Wall, the first-overall draft pick in 2010, is averaging 14.7 points and 7.3 assists in 29 minutes over that stretch. Those are both team-highs for the Wizards, so Wall is clearly the focal point of their offense at all times.
Even more so than the Raptors, the Wizards like to deploy a very deep bench. Bradley Beal (31 minutes) is currently the only player on the roster averaging over 30 minutes a game, and he’s come off the bench in their last two games. However, both Wall and big-man Nene are beginning to receive more minutes now that they are healthy.
Many Raptor fans, I hope, are anxious to see how Gay performs tonight. The All-Star break came at the perfect time for Rudy–he came in, made his mark, and then started to struggle mightily on offense. In the time off, Rudy will have had the chance to more thoroughly practice with the team and develop chemistry. In addition, he will have had the chance to reboot his jumpshot and overall offensive arsenal, so he hopefully won’t shoot 4 for 21 again.
The Raptors are six games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the East’s eighth and final playoff spot.
Casey Sherman is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.