The Toronto Raptors begin the second “half” (less actually) of the season in the U.S. capital. The Wizards have lost twice already to our team, and can ill afford another one. The Eastern Conference playoff race allows little room for a slump, as teams seeded #3 (Raps) through #8 (Bobcats) are within 6 losses of each other.
Washington’s starters are healthy, and should provide a tough game. Marcin (The Polish Hammer) Gortat at centre will battle our European, Jonas Valanciunas, all night. He’s their top rebounder and shot blocker. Nene, who must be a soccer-player wannabe with that single name thing, after 11 NBA seasons has some wear on his tires. He’s not the rebounder he once was, but can still score. Trevor Ariza at small forward is severely underrated. He scores, defends and passes, and never takes a game off. The Wizards’ backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal is the team’s future. Those two are young, lightening-quick and can score from all over the floor.
The Wiz won’t go anywhere unless they upgrade their bench. It’s littered with disappointments like Jan Vesely and Eric Maynor. Rookie Otto Porter hasn’t taken anyone’s breath away, but we’ll likely see him for a few minutes.
The Raptors have listed Patrick Patterson as their starter at power forward. Whether this means sore-ankled Amir Johnson won’t dress again is not clear. Regardless, the rest of the squad is healthy and can grab another victory if they:
- scoot! While it may seem counter-intuitive to run on a team with speedy guards, the Wiz’ woeful bench can be exploited if their starters are gassed.
- exploit the rotation to its fullest. I like those wrinkles coach Dwane Casey offers – DeMar DeRozan on the floor with the second unit, or Greivis Vasquez with Kyle Lowry. We can go big, with Hansbrough and Amir (we hope), or small, with Salmons and Hayes. Keep this team off balance.
- get Terrence Ross involved early. It makes me crazy to see him standing in the corner, alone, like a shy boy at the school dance, while the offense swirls in the paint. Get TRoss some quick buckets, and watch the floor open up.
The Raps have shown they can handle this team, and will do it again by a 99-93 count.