Raptors Cage

Game Day Preview: Atlantic Division-Leading Raptors Host Wizards

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The Toronto Raptors host the Washington Wizards Friday night at the Air Canada Center aiming for a season high two-game win streak and a stronger grip of the Atlantic (Titanic) Division.

Toronto (5-7) sits atop of the division ½ games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers, a foe they ousted recently 108-98.

After a slow start, Washington (4-7) is turning the corner following two impressive victories over the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It should be an exciting match. Let’s get to the Cage’s 5 Keys To The Game.

1. Let the Wings Fly

Small forward and quality defensive stopper Trevor Ariza will not play Friday due to a hamstring injury so Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan might have an easier time getting to the basket. DeRozan torched the 76ers Wednesday scoring 33 points on 10-19 shooting while Gay is always capable of scoring 20+ (albeit with horrific percentages). Toronto should capitalize on the favorable wing and guard match ups.

2. Minimize Bradley Beal’s Impact

The Wizards lean heavily on Bradley Beal for scoring and he just does that. The former Florida Gator has averaged 21.2 points, 3.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds in his sophomore campaign and is constantly refining his game. Beal can score in a variety of ways but is most deadly from downtown, connecting on .500 % of his attempts thus far. Toronto struggles to defend the three and will have to worry about guarding the perimeter.

3. Limiting Turnovers

Washington ranks second overall, behind Miami, in opponent turnovers per game (18.0). The Wizards also rank fifth overall in steals (9.3) and make a living off of easy transition baskets. Toronto has done a good job of protecting the rock all season but will need to be extra attentive tonight and limit the pick-pocketing Wizards, especially guard John Wall.

4.  Attack the Glass

The Raptors continue to be aggressive on the boards, evidenced by the team’s +2.6 rebounds per game differential. What is most surprising is their strength and persistence on the offensive glass (13.6 per game), ranking second overall in the league. Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat are no slouches but the Raptors should be able to generate more scoring opportunities if the rebounding trend continues.

5. Pull out the Dagger

The Raptors inability to close out games and protect leads has been long documented. I’ve seen this feisty Wizards team rally from huge deficits and outscore their opponents in a flash, including a recovery from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets this year. If the Dinos have the lead early, they need to keep the foot on the pedal.

X-Factor: DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan

The 24-year-old swingman is on a tear as of late, averaging 27.8 points in his last five games by draining threes and converting from the charity stripe. Two months ago, I would have said Gay was the wing worth keeping but the former USC Trojan is improving daily and could be an integral member going forward.

You can still get a great deal on tickets here —> http://tiqiq.us/TORvWSH


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