February 19, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal (3) shoots the ball over Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (3) in the third quarter at Verizon Center. The Raptors won 96-88. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Wizards At Raptors Preview: Key Match Up, Notes/Links, and Prediction

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After winning two back to back games against the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets, the Washington Wizards will look to pick up their third consecutive victory. They’ll meet the Toronto Raptors tonight, who beat the Wizards 96-88 at the Verizon Center this past week.

Key Match Up

Since acquiring Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies, the Toronto Raptors have looked like a top Eastern Conference playoff team. With Rudy Gay in the lineup, the Raptors have won 7 of their last 10 games. With wins over teams such as the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, and L.A. Clippers, the Raptors are doing all the right things to make a push for the final playoff spot. Since joining the Raptors, Rudy Gay has averaged over 21 points per game, providing a scoring lift the Raptors have needed all season. Toronto has plethora of players which thrive in transition, so Gay’s adjustment into the Raptors system has gone smoother than expected. Toronto also has a good defensive player in Gay, which is another thing they’ve been missing all season. Toronto has been very tough to stop with their new look team.

Trevor Ariza will need to contribute as much as he did in Saturday’s win, if the Wizards want to pick up just their fifth road win of the season. Ariza scored 18 points to go along side 6 assists off the bench against his former team, the Houston Rockets. Ariza is probably Washington’s best on ball defender, so you’d expect him to help stop Rudy Gay in transition. Washington will prefer having Rudy Gay take difficult shots in the half court, rather than having him lead the fast break in transition. I expect Ariza to get plenty of minutes on the court tonight, so It’ll be his duty to help contain Rudy Gay.

Other Notes/Links

  • Washington and the Los Angeles Clippers reportedly discussed a deal which would’ve sent Caron Butler back to Washington, in exchange for Trevor Ariza. The deal was supposedly vetoed at the last minute by Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. I’m torn because I would’ve liked to see Butler back in D.C, but I think Ariza still has more value.
  • Bradley Beal has been a stud in Washington, and his game is continuously growing. He scored 25 points against James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Saturday night. Let’s hope Beal continues to grow, because he’s been amazing as of late.
  • Jason Collins has joined the Washington Wizards. I’ll be interested if he gets any court time tonight, especially since Kevin Seraphin received his first ‘DNP-Coaches Decision’ on Saturday night. When asked about what he’ll being to Washington, Collins simply stated “Leadership and hard fouls”.
  • Here at Wiz of Awes, we said our final goodbye’s to Jordan Crawford. I’ve took the time to watch a few Celtics games this past week, just to get a chance to watch ‘Steez’ play. I must admit, it was a bit weird to see him in a Celtics uniform. I sincerely hope he sticks in their rotation, seeing as though Boston has been dealing with a series of injuries.
  • Not much else going on in Wizards land today.

Prediction

The last time these two rising Eastern Conference teams met, the Verizon Center wasn’t the only thing having technical difficulties. From air horns to makeshift shot clocks, this game was a mess for the Wizards. John Wall had what was arguably his worst game of his career, scoring 9 points on 1 for 12 shooting. Wall also committed a season high, 7 turnovers in that match up.

Since then, both teams have improved and left a lot of ‘what ifs’ for their fans, in terms of how the teams could’ve performed if they started on the same pace at the beginning of the season. John Wall and Bradley Beal are continuing to improve their chemistry and have shown us plenty of flashes and glimpses of what we should expect in the future. Wall had a double double last game, but most importantly, he only turned the ball over twice. It is important for Wall to have a bounce back game against the Raptors, since he was terrible the last go around.

Toronto isn’t the type of team which is great in the half court, so it is very important to cut down on unforced turnovers. With virtually no post player, the Raptors have to rely on their defense to create opportunities for points in transition. Kyle Lowry, Demar Derozan, and Rudy Gay are some of the best transition players in the NBA. Turnovers are inevitable and will obviously occur over the course of a 48 minute span, but Washington needs to limit their amount of turnovers.

With that said, I think Washington will have a great chance to potentially avenge their loss to the Raptors this season. Toronto doesn’t have very many big men, so the Wizards need to take advantage of mismatches much like they did against the Rockets on Saturday. Nene and Emeka Okafor should have their way against the Raptors big men.

Washington will win a close game at the Air Canada Centre tonight.

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Tags: Nba Rudy Gay Toronto Raptors Trevor Ariza Washington Wizards

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