Nov 22, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) tries to get past Washington Wizards forward Nene (42) at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Wizards 96-88. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Wizards try to reclaim their .500 record aganist the Toronto Raptors (Wizards-Raptors preview)

After failing to put themselves over the .500 mark against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, the Wizards will try to even their record against the surging Toronto Raptors tonight in the nation’s capital. The game tips off at 7:00 PM from the Verizon Center.

Key Match Up:

The Raptors have quietly been playing above .500 basketball since trading Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Greivis Vasquez and some scraps. Ironically, Vasquez was supposed to be the key piece in that deal but point guard Kyle Lowry has especially elevated his game in Gay’s absence. Lowry, who’s been in trade rumors all season long, has played at an All-Star level in the past few weeks and I think the Raptors will refrain from dealing him any time soon. Averaging over 19 points and 10 assists in the past 5 games, Lowry has lead the Raptors to 3 straight victories and they’ll have a chance to get over .500 tonight against the Wizards.

John Wall, who scored 37 points against Lowry and Co. earlier this season, will have to try and contain the resurgent point guard if he wants to lead his team to a win at home. Wall has been the best point guard in the Eastern Conference this season, but he hasn’t had much competition with injuries sidelining the likes of Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo. Now that Kyle Lowry is playing at a very high level, we’ll finally get to see how Wall matches up against a top tier point guard in his conference. Wall has held Lowry to just 11 points and 7 assists on just 33% shooting from the field in their 9 meetings against each other. On the flip side, Wall has put up over 20 points and 7 assists on 49% shooting from the field against Lowry (via Basketball Reference). I think it’s safe to say that Wall has gotten the best of Lowry through his first 4-seasons in the NBA, but that will have to continue tonight for the Wizards to prevail.

Notes:

  • The Raptors have lost 5 of their last 6 games against the Wizards on the road (via ESPN).
  • Toronto stunned the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, beating them by 13 points at home. DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points on the night.
  • Toronto has the 8th highest defensive rating in the NBA.
  • If the NBA Playoffs were to start today, the Wizards and Raptors would face each other in the first round.

Prediction:

Washington dropped a very winnable game against the Mavericks on Monday, but they’ll have to find a way to take care of teams like the Raptors at home. The Wizards have already lost 6 games at home this season and about 2-3 of the games they lost should’ve been wins for the home team. Even though the Raptors are much improved since trading Rudy Gay, the Wizards have more talent on their roster and they should sneak past them with a victory. John Wall was particularly disappointed in the way his team lost on Monday and it’s clear that the Wizards want to get back to .500 before their schedule picks up soon.

DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valanciunas are some of the most underrated players in the NBA, and the Wizards can’t take this team lightly. Valanciunas has always given the Wizards problems and Marcin Gortat has struggled over the past few games. Gortat has to do a better job on the glass for the Wizards to win games. John Wall and Bradley Beal will also have to force Lowry and DeRozan to shoot from the perimeter, otherwise their guards will create shots for their bigs in the paint and the Washington’s interior defense has been suspect this season.

With all that said, the Wizards should sneak past the Raptors with a win tonight.

 

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