home Blogs Wizards vs. Raptors game preview: Time to even things out. Again.

Wizards vs. Raptors game preview: Time to even things out. Again.

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Toronto (15-15) at Washington (14-15)

January 3, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 106.7FM The Fan

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Projected starting lineups:

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C- Marcin Gortat
PF- Trevor Booker
SF- Trevor Ariza
SG- Bradley Beal
PG- John Wall

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C- Jonas Valanciunas
PF- Amir Johnson
SF- DeMar DeRozan
SG- Terrence Ross
PG- Kyle Lowry

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Key matchup:

John Wall, Kyle Lowry

John Wall v. Kyle Lowry

This is one of the more difficult matchups for John Wall. Lowry is a smart and assertive guard who can do a variety of things with the ball. In the previous matchup between these two, Lowry was able to lose Wall several times by way of the pick and roll as well as simply beating him off the dribble. As a ball handler, Lowry does a good job picking his poison. He’ll either patiently wait to thread a pass to an open teammate, maybe blow by you off the dribble, or show some range with the long ball. Now in his 8th season in the league, Lowry is on pace to achieve career highs in points, assists, and steals.

Meanwhile, John Wall has been burning in his own spotlight. Wall has poured in 20+ points in 10 of his last 11 games including eight straight. The jump shot has been a lot more proficient, he’s continued to grow as a leader and facilitator, and he’s been stepping up late in games. Despite being a long shot to win the fan votes for the All-Star game, Wall’s numbers in assists and points rank first and second, respectively, in the Eastern Conference.

The key to Wall’s success against Lowry tonight is remaining stout in his perimeter defense. Often times we’ve seen Wall get absorbed by screeners and much was the case in the last game. Lowry’s ability to break away from his defender off screens has proven to open up Toronto’s offense and lead to easy buckets. I look for Wall to be weary of this and minimize Lowry’s penetration. Offensively, we all know the deal. Keep running, look for your wing shooters, and establish good spacing/movement in half court sets.

Spotlight:

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The trenches of Northern Europe. Once upon a time a commonwealth, Lithuania and Poland will square off at the Verizon Center tonight via the rendition of Jonas Valanciunas versus Marcin Gortat. A moderate post player, Valanciunas thrives off his length and mobility. He’s not that great of a ball handler down low, but controls the ball and elevates well enough to get the ball to the rim over his defenders. As mentioned above, Jonas (I’m tired of typing out his 14 syllable last name) is a good screener on and off the ball and is agile enough to create good spacing and positioning close to the rim.

Although Gortat isn’t a bad interior defender, he’s not quite as mobile as Jonas and may require some help defense to ensure minimal production down low. The key for Gortat tonight, as has been for much of the season, is getting to the rim and finishing. Again, Jonas’ length could be a factor as he has often shown his prowess as a shot blocker. This could be a night where Gortat needs to rely on his midrange jumper.

The X-factor:

Free throw shooting. Let’s face it. The Wizards suck all around when it comes to earning charity. They rank second to last in the league in free throws attempted, and rank in the bottom ten in free throw percentage. But the former issue is the main issue. It’s plain and simple; when shots aren’t falling, get your ass to the rim. The Wizards have been woeful at getting to the line all season long, and Randy Wittman expressed this as the key reason why they lost to the Mavericks. The Wizards attempted only 10 free throws to Dallas’ 21 and it was clearly evident why. Too many jump shots and not enough lane penetration. Coach knows it, the numbers show it, and the players acknowledged it. Not much else to say here.

What happened last time they played?

John Wall torched the Air Canada Centre with 37 points on 21 shots but the Wizards fell to the Raptors 96-88. Why? Wall had only two assists Why? Because the rest of the team only shot 32 percent. Meanwhile, the Raptors had six players in double-figures along with a great outing by Amir Johnson who made all but one of his 8 shots and was a plus-22. The game was infused by runs coming from both teams as Toronto opened up with a 13 point lead by halftime. The Wizards then outscored the Raptors by 17 in the 3rd to take a 70-66 lead into the 4th before runs of 9-0 and 8-0 by Toronto in the final quarter ultimately sealed the loss for DC.

Who’s hurt?

For the Wizards, Glen Rice, Jr. and Al Harrington remain out. The Raptors are all good.

Outlook:

Ah the pursuit of .500 commences once again. The Wizards are now in phase 3 of climbing out of a losing record this season and have a good opportunity to make things even tonight. By now, the squad should have shaken off any post-holiday lag and I look for them to come out sharp and in tune. The game plan is as usual for the Wiz. Crash the glass, open up the fast break, get to the free throw line. Wizards by a touchdown.

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