By: Jeremy Hyman
The Wizards return from the All-Star break as they host the Toronto Raptors tonight at Verizon Center (7:00pm | TV: CSN | Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM). Strangely enough, this is the first time these two conference foes will meet this season, but they will play a total of four times over the next six weeks.
The Wizards last played on Wednesday night in Detroit, when the former Raptor, Jose Calderon, led all scorers with 24 points as the Wizards saw their four game winning streak come to an end. Luckily they won't have to deal with Calderon tonight, but the challenge won't necessarily be any easier.
Like the Wizards, the Raptors may be playing their best basketball of the season and are winners of their last four games. Not only did they win four in a row, but notched some impressive victories including wins in both Indiana & New York, and a home win over Denver. One of the major reasons for their recent success has been the acquisition of swingman and local product Rudy Gay.
Gay has averaged over 20 points and over six rebounds per game since joining Toronto and has become the go-to scorer they were looking for. Pairing him up with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry has produced some exciting basketball in Toronto and although it is a small sample size, they are 5-2 since adding Gay to the lineup.
The Wizards have also played some of their best basketball of late, especially while playing in front of their home crowd at Verizon Center. They have won eight of their last nine games at home including wins against the Clippers, Knicks, and Nets. They are also 10-8 since getting John Wall back from injury, and 7-1 at home with Wall.
Defense has been the main reason why they have been more successful over the last month. The Wizards have held their last 10 opponents to under 100 points. The last time they have held their opponents to 10 straight games under 100 points was from December 6-26 of 2001.
This is the first game back for both teams after the All-Star break, so it will be interesting to see how each team starts the game. Usually if a team comes out hot they look well rested and if they come out cold they look rusty. It should not take too much time for both teams to get back into their rhythm but it will be something to take note of especially in the first half.
The action kicks off at 7:00pm
John Wall is averaging 15.6 points, 8.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds in his last seven games and averaged 16.8 points, 7.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds in four games versus the Raptors last season. He has scored in double figures in each of his last six games and has notched at least eight assists in those games.
Tonight he goes up against a versatile point guard in Kyle Lowry. He is a guard that does a little bit of everything as he'll help on the glass, dish the ball out, and score when he needs to. Now that Jose Calderon is gone he has taken over the offense and has double-doubles in two of his last three games. He will be someone the Wizards need to watch out for and if they can slow him down it will go a long way in slowing down the Raptors attack.
In this clip, Wall gets the steal and the slam.
In the clip below, Wall leads the fast break.