The Washington Wizards visit Toronto in the midst of trying to pull their season out of the muck early. The Wiz started 2-7 but have won their last two games, beating a strong Minnesota squad and the struggling Cavaliers. This team, like the Raps, seems to have been rebuilding since Kareem was hitting skyhooks. They are chock-full of youthful high draft picks like John Wall and Bradley Beal, both of whom are excellent, but they’ve also swung and missed – I’m looking at you, Jan Vesely.
Their front court, by contrast, is manned by NBA veterans Nene and Marcin Gortat. Nene, a gifted Brazilian, has had his promising career sidetracked by injury and illness, but appears to be at full strength. His dunks can be thunderous. Gortat, the Polish Hammer, arrived from Phoenix in a trade just before the season started. He’s nearly acclimated with his new teammates, and will be a major load for our centre, Jonas Valanciunas, to handle. The Wizards’ bench is thin, with Raptor-killer Al Harrington perhaps the biggest worry. He’s not been getting much playing time, but may get more against Toronto. Martell Webster can do some damage from distance.
This team is starting to rumble, and the Raps will need all hands on deck. A win is there for the taking if the home team can:
- Slow the game down. Kyle Lowry may need to bother the in-bounds pass after a made basket, then harass Wall all the way up the floor. He’ll need help from long-armed Amir Johnson and others, but if the Raps let the Wiz run, there will be a lot of high-percentage layups occurring. These guys are fast.
- Box out Gortat. The big guy has been their only rebounder of note, so if he can be neutralized, the Wiz’ offense will be one & done. He’s also their major shot-blocking threat. JV will need to pin him when DeMar DeRozan and others are attacking the basket.
- Keep Bradley Beal within an arm’s length at all times on D. The second-year guard leads the Wiz in scoring, which isn’t surprising considering he’s shooting 50% from 3-point land. He’s already the player we’re hoping Terrence Ross will be one day in the very near future. TR may be just the man to bother Beal, so watch for that matchup.
The Wiz are better than their record, and should be in the playoff mix as the season advances. The Raps are coming off a largely successful game in Philly, and should be well-rested. I’ll take the Raps to prevail 101-99 in a game that will be tight all the way. Brian Boake is Senior 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. Remember, for the best deals on Toronto Raptors tickets for any game on the 2013-14 NBA schedule, visit our friends at TiqIQ.com.