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Wizards vs. Raptors game preview: Keep on, keepin’ on

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Washington (4-7) at Toronto (5-7)

November 22, 2013 at 7:00 PM
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 106.7FM The Fan

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Projected starting lineups:

Washington Wizards
C- Marcin Gortat, PF- Nene, SF- Martell Webster, SG- Bradley Beal, PG- John Wall

Toronto Raptors
C- Jonas Valanciunas, PF- Amir Johnson, SF- Rudy Gay, SG- DeMar DeRozan, PG- Kyrie Lowry

Key matchup:

Bradley Beal v. DeMar DeRozen

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Tonight’s key matchup features two ballers that display eerily similar numbers this season and serve as the leading scorers for their respective teams. Beal and DeRozan both head into tonight’s game averaging just over 21 points per game while carrying the momentum of some strong recent performances. DeRozan especially has been lights out in his last three games, averaging 33 points on 50 percent shooting.

Beal struggled mightily to start the season but has gradually begun molding back into his old self over the past few games. In his first few games this season, Beal settled for poor shots and seemed to be weary of his floor game. He’s regained his confidence and seems to be more comfortable with both his jump shot as well as his ability to attack the rim.

This matchup serves more importance for DeRozan and the Raptors than it does Bradley Beal and the Wizards, in my opinion. DeRozan is one of just a few players on the Raptors that can actually create offense and score points. Beal’s footwork on defense must be up to par if he expects to contain DeRozan off the dribble. DeRozan is an excellent lane driver who can slash straight to the rim or beat you with a stutter step to get you off balance. The Raptors also love sending DeRozan to the rim off backcuts and off-ball screens, so Beal’s court awareness must be sharp to focus on not losing him.

Spotlight:

NBA: Washington Wizards-Media Day

Jan Vesely. As a Wizards fan, one of the bigger pleasantries this season has been the observance of THIS guy’s improvement and growth. Just a few weeks ago, Honza wasn’t nationally known for much else besides being a public tonsil tickler, but after this past week, he’s been in NBA.com highlight reels more than once. The prospect of Vesely’s continued development entices the crap out of me and his promising potential serves as a huge deal for this team. The Raptors rank fairly high in percentage of offensive boards, so that means there’s going to be plenty of Jonas Valanciunas crashing the glass all night, and Jan simply cannot afford to be inept.

The X-factor:

Fast break points. As mentioned above, the Raptors are prone to crashing the offensive glass which is something the Wizards should feast on all night with their gunners running back down court. The Wizards are nearly second to none in terms of fast break efficiency thanks to John Wall and his mind crazing speed and vision. Transition points for the Wizards has served as a great scoring beneficiary especially when the offense tanks in their half court sets. This is how they were able to keep the Wolves game within reach during that Kevin Love barrage in the first half. If the Wizards can maintain their normal tempo and get easy buckets in transition, they should be in good shape to win the game.

What happened last time they played?

The Wizards dropped their last match to the Raptors 88-78 in Toronto. It was your typical first half double-digit lead terrible 3rd quarter before losing by double digits type of night for the Wizards. The game was marked by the unfortunate announcement of the end of Bradley Beal’s season, who was shelved for that leg injury. DeMar DeRozan balled out in this one, scoring 25 points with a plus/minus of +20. The Wizards, led by Wall’s 20 points, shot a horrible 32% from the field.

Who’s hurt?

Trevor Ariza, Chris Singleton, and Otto Porter are out for the Wizards. Quincy Acy is out for the Raptors.

Outlook:

The Wizards have displayed great poise and resilience over their past two games; two games which started contrarily to one another but finished very similarly. Against the Wolves, they were torched early and trailed by 15 before climbing back and winning by four. Oppositely, against Cleveland, the Wizards built a 27 point lead but had to hold on for a win thanks to a great comeback attempt by the Cavs. Riding a heap of momentum going into Toronto, it’d be fitting for the Wizards to come out the gates and cruise the whole night, but that can never be a certainty. I expect the Wizards to run; when they aren’t running, I expect them to initiate their offense through their bigs and establish presence down low; I expect Bradley Beal to find good shots and make them; I expect the Wizards win. By 5.

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