After dropping a very winnable road game to the dreadful Orlando Magic on Friday night, the Washington Wizards will return home to meet the struggling Toronto Raptors. Here is tonight’s quick game preview:
Key Match Up
Rudy Gay, who has been dealing with some back issues, returned to the Raptors lineup on Friday night against the Detroit Pistons, in where he helped them snap a 5 game losing streak. Prior to Gay’s arrival in Toronto, the Raptors didn’t have a legitimate “go to” threat. With Gay in the lineup, Toronto has thrived on both sides of the floor. His length and athleticism separates Rudy Gay from the rest of his peers. Washington has to do a better job in forcing athletic forwards to take difficult outside jump shots. On Friday night, the Wizards allowed 5 dunks in the first quarter, all which seemed to have come from Orlando’s athletic wing players. Shooting just over 40% from the floor, Rudy Gay isn’t a particularly good shooter. If Washington stops Gay from getting out and transition and forcing him to take difficult shots from the perimeter, they should be able to contain him.
With that said, Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza (if active) will get the defensive assignment on Gay. Webster returned to the Wizards lineup on Friday night, but didn’t have a particularly good shooting night, which is odd in Webster’s case. Shooting just 1 for 7 from three, Martell Webster has to regain that shooting touch which we’ve seen throughout the season. When Webster is knocking down threes at the rate we’re used to (6th in the league in 3 point percentage), defenses are forced to collapse on him, which opens up driving lanes for himself and his teammates. Ariza also scored just 5 points in 25 minutes of play on Friday night against the Magic. Washington looks for contributions on the defensive side of the floor from Ariza, more so than scoring. Washington has been devastated by injuries, so Ariza has to do a good job of containing Rudy Gay, without getting into foul trouble.
Washington has been a completely different team when playing at the Verizon Center. With 19 wins and 17 losses at home, the Wizards have done a good job in taking care of games at home. But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re continuously struggling to pick up wins against horrendous teams on the road. I honestly can’t even wrap my mind around their road woes. Thankfully, the Wizards will return home to meet the Raptors tonight.
With Bradley Beal, Nene, Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza and A.J Price all missing significant time due to injuries, John Wall has stepped up in the scoring department. Averaging nearly 28 points and 8 assists during the past five games, John Wall has looked like the best player on the floor each night he steps on the court. His jump shot has looked very good, especially from the right elbow. When John Wall is shooting and hitting his jump shot with confidence, he becomes nearly unstoppable. Despite Wall’s spectacular play as of late, the Wizards haven’t been able to pick up wins. Wall will be matched up against Kyle Lowry, who has become more of a facilitator than a scorer as of late. Struggling to shoot the ball, Lowry has taken it upon himself to get his teammates involved. We’re used to seeing Lowry play like a shoot first point guard, so it’s unusual to see him rack up 10 or 11 assists during his past couple games. With Rudy Gay in the lineup, Lowry has done a pretty good job in transitioning his game to benefit the changed lineup. He’ll have a difficult time defending John Wall tonight, since he isn’t a particularly big point guard. Wall needs to continue playing with his new found aggressiveness, since Toronto will most likely have trouble keeping up with his speed and explosiveness. This is the type of game where Wall should be able to take over. Toronto lacks some size in the paint, making Wall’s job even easier.
But the key to winning the game will be stopping Toronto’s transition game. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay are all very good players in transition. Toronto is ranked just 23rd in pace, but their ability to score quickly off turnovers has the potential to win them games. DeRozan has averaged nearly 18 points per game because Toronto’s offensive capabilities fit his offensive tools. DeRozan has also averaged close to 25 points per game while shooting over 50 percent from the floor against the Wizards this season, and has clearly taken advantage of Washington’s lackluster transition defense. It is important for the Wizards and John Wall especially, to limit their turnovers. If Washington turns the ball over at a high rate tonight, they’ll be in for another long night.
Washington needs to close out the season on a high note. With just 10 games remaining, the Wizards have to get wins against sub par teams. As I mentioned before, the Wizards have been pretty good at home, so I’m picking them to win tonight’s game.
Happy Easter to all those which celebrate. Enjoy the game.