Tonight the Toronto Raptors are back in action against the Washington Wizards. After defeating the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, the Raptors (35-17) hope to continue their winning ways into the All-Star break. If the Raptors get a victory tonight they’d sweep the season series with the Wizards (33-20) who sit only 2.5 games behind Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings. The last matchup saw the two teams compete in arguably one of the best games of the season with the Raptors coming away with a 120-116 overtime victory. Although the Raptors blew an 18-point lead in that game, they competed until the bitter end against their conference foes. Eastern Conference starters John Wall and Kyle Lowry will go head to head once again for another exciting battle. Let’s hope the Raptors maintain focus and energy for a full 48 minutes as exhibited against the Spurs on Sunday.
Cages Keys to the Game:
2 Words: John Wall
It seems the every pre-game against the Wizards, that the Raptors need to be reminded who is leading the opposing team. John Wall is putting up MVP numbers this season averaging a career high in assists and steals while leading his team night in and night out. There’s no real formula to stopping John Wall, however if the Raptors are able to force him to be more of a scorer than a facilitator than the Raps may be in good shape. Wall’s confidence has rubbed off on his teammates in a big way, and it doesn’t help that they have the machismo of Paul Pierce coming off the bench to aid that.
No Mental Lapses
As mentioned before, the Raptors blew an 18-point lead during their last game against the Wizards. If the Raptors are privileged with the opportunity to see themselves lead by this much again, they should take advantage and step on the throats of Washington. If any slippage occurs for either club after the All-Star break, this could very well be a potential opening round matchup. Send a message. Sweep the Wizards.
Force them to the perimeter
Bradley Beal is a player who usually doesn’t perform too well when facing Toronto, however he was able to find his rhythm in their last matchup dropping 5 out of his 10 three-point attempts finishing the game with 26 points. It’s a good thing he’s out for tonight’s game with a stress reaction in his leg. With that the Wizards are without they’re best perimeter threat so Toronto should try to push Washington out of the paint in favour of the long-ball. The Wizards still have the veteran presence of Pierce who has the tendency to hit the big shot when his team needs it the most, so Toronto still needs to be cognizant of the threat at all times.
X-Factor: Toronto’s Bench
Tonight’s X-Factor goes to the combined effort of Toronto’s bench players. With the absence of Beal for the Wizards, Toronto will have to use a balanced approach to counter the Wall-heavy Wizards. John Wall will be looking to increase his productivity in Beal’s absence. Toronto needs to take advantage when Wall isn’t on the court and build their lead with the talent of their superior bench unit.