The Washington Wizards, who spanked the Toronto Raptors in the U.S. capital last week, travel to the Air Canada Centre in the final game of the season series. The Raps, who in late January were fantasizing about a playoff run following the Rudy Gay acquisition, are now officially out of post-season contention. That’s five years and counting, Raps’ fans. In the remainder of this season, we can hope to catch the Wiz for 10th place in the conference. Can you feel the excitement? We almost certainly won’t have a draft pick this summer, and those sensitive souls at MLSE have announced a price hike for next year’s tickets. There’s so much to look forward to!
Apr 2, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) brings the ball down court against Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer (5) during the second quarter at the Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports
Against Detroit, the Raps finally got the game they have been waiting from Rudy, and still folded in the fourth quarter. Coach Dwane Casey has been hamstrung by a threadbare bench (Landry Fields is having his elbow re-examined; one wonders if he’ll ever be right), even so, the Raps should be able to handle Washington. The Wizards’ best player by far is the veteran-brain-in-youthful-body point guard John Wall, who is emerging as that rarest of talents – one a team can be built around. When John is directing their offense, everyone touches the rock, and in scoring positions. His supporting cast is a modest collection of talent, with much to be modest about, but he makes them as good as they can be.
I’m losing confidence by the game in the Raps, particularly in their inability to close out victories. However, I think the Raps can grab a win if they:
- Get everyone involved in the offense. How can anyone be surprised that Terrence Ross is struggling so mightily? Our rookie barely touches the ball, and on those rare occasions when he does, he panics. Time and again, the Raps play 4-on-5 in the half-court set, and then wonder why there’s so little scoring. Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan are frequently guilty of ball-stopping, but Kyle Lowry has to accept some blame for his inability to spot TR. At least our guards are making an effort to get Jonas Valanciunas the ball inside. Guess what, guys? It works. And so might some inside-out passes, JV.
- Play more zone defense. Play multiple versions of zone…box and one, 2-1-2, 2-3. The Raps need to confuse the young Wizards. Admittedly playing a lot of zone D is tricky in the era of defensive 3-second violations, but it can be done. Bradley Beal torched the Raps from distance last week, and a zone should cut down on his ability to “lose” his defender via multiple screens.
- Keep a true centre on the floor all game. John Wall loves to drive and dish down low. If we keep a shot-blocker (I’m giving Aaron Gray the benefit of the doubt here!) in place, he should be able to disrupt the pass, or, failing that, bother the receiver. No easy buckets for Emeka Okafor, Kevin Seraphin, and the others. Quincy Acy can provide valuable minutes in this role, as he plays bigger than his height.
Mar 29, 2013; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) blocks Detroit Pistons center Viacheslav Kravtsov (55) during the fourth quarter at The Palace. Raptors won 99-82. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Optimism overcomes logic once again. I’ll pick the Raps to finally get a grip in the fourth quarter, and have enough buffer built up to leave the floor as 104-100 victors.
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.