The Toronto Raptors visit the U.S. capital for a game against the improving Washington Wizards. The Wiz are a tough team when point guard John Wall starts; since he returned in mid-January to their lineup following a lengthy stint on the Disabled List, they have won 21 of 38 games.
The Wiz have clearly embraced the trend towards smaller lineups. Their tallest starter is Emeka Okafor, an undersized centre. They count on the speed and aggressiveness of wingmen like Martell Webster, who’s enjoying the best season of his career. This will be my first look at Garrett Temple, scheduled to start at shooting guard. The Wiz nailed their draft pick – Bradley Beal, from Florida, can score in bunches. However, he’s out for this game with an ankle problem.
The Raps can put this game in the win column if they:
- pound the ball inside. Jonas Valanciunas has made it abundantly clear in recent games that he can pose a giant headache to NBA defenders. He’s bigger than anyone he’s likely to face, and will take high-percentage shots. Amir Johnson will clean up many of JV’s misses, and force his way into the middle for hook shots as well.
- control John Wall. The former first overall pick from Kentucky is justifying the hype. He’s averaged 31 points in his last 3 home games, all Wiz wins, and contributes big numbers in assists and rebounds. Landry Fields may be the man to go nose-to-nose against the mercurial Wall.
- play with patience. The Wiz play tough defense, and the Raps may need to move the ball into all 5 pairs of hands before a good shot presents itself, probably late in the shot clock. Rudy Gay must suppress his infantile tendency to drive into double teams. This team will pick your pocket.
Terrence Ross may get some significant minutes, and I hope we see Quincy Acy. I think the Raps can keep John Wall under 30 points, which means another Wiz player will need to find some offense. I don’t believe that will happen, so the Raps are the pick by 93-88.
Brian Boake is a co-editor 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.