The Toronto Raptors (4-5) fly south to D.C. to take on the Washington Wizards (0-8). Toronto, competing in its only back-to-back-to-back this season, will be looking for a second win in as many nights before heading west to play the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. Washington split a four-game series versus Toronto last season, securing two victories at home by an average of nine points. TAI’s Beckley Mason, Adam McGinnis and John Converse Townsend go 3-on-3 to get you ready for tonight’s action.
#1) In four games vs. Washington last season, Andrea Bargnani averaged 25.5 points on 57.1-percent shooting in wins and 18.5 points on 35.3-percent shooting in losses. Which Bargs will show up?
MASON: It’s a back-to-back for Toronto, but I’m betting that Bargnani will feast on the abhorrent Wizards power forwards. His range will always be troublesome for someone like Blatche, who prefers to move as little possible. He’ll get the looks, only a question of whether Bargnani connects.
McGINNIS: Bargnani will get his and is a tough match up for Wizards, but it is more important for Wizards to expose Bargs on the defensive end—*cough* Andray Blatche *cough*. The Wiz struggle for points and need a big game from their offense in order to notch their first win of the young season.
TOWNSEND: The super-sized Roman scored 31 points on 25 shots last night, and will have every opportunity to make headlines in the nation’s capital. The Wizards can’t match-up with this seven-footer—Trevor Booker doesn’t have the size, JaVale McGee doesn’t have the discipline and Andray Blatche doesn’t have the interest. He’ll get buckets; the real question is how many?
#2) Jose Calderon recorded 14 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds in 41 minutes vs. Minnesota last night. Will he improve those numbers against Washington?
MASON: Calderon is a pick-and-roll ace, and last season he picked the Wizards apart to the tune of 21 points and 15 assists in a late season match-up. The Wizards play OK pick-and-roll defense, but are terrible at defending spot-up shots. My guess is Calderon will find the seams for a big night.
McGINNIS: Jose Calderon will constantly run pick-and-rolls, so John Wall must be prepared for them. Communication between Wall and other Wizards defender guarding the Raptors screener will be vital for defensive success. Wall’s poor offensive outings have masked that he has taken huge strides on the defensive end from his rookie year. I expect Wall to showcase this by limiting Calderon’s effectiveness.
TOWNSEND: Jose Calderon is performing like a top ten point guard, with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 21. 25. The Raptors play at the second-slowest pace in the NBA; Calderon should be ready for action, despite logging more than 40 minutes last night. He’s averaging 16.3 points, 9.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds in his last three games against Washington, so I like his chances of tallying his third double-double of the season tonight.
#3) The Wizards are winless, but (somehow) favored to beat the Raptors by 2.5 points. Can the team pull it off, or will they extend their franchise-worst start to a season to nine straight losses?
MASON: I’m openly rooting for a complete tank at this point in hopes that the team will be forced to get rid of everyone and John Wall will soon play with Anthony Davis. That being said, the Raptors are a below average team, on the road, on the second night of a back-to-back. This is as good a chance as any for the Wizards to break through.
McGINNIS: If I had to answer this question on Sunday, I would flatly respond, “Hells no.” Looking at the upcoming schedule, the Wizards must win tonight or the losing streak could go on for weeks. The team played much better versus New York after a players-only meeting. Now, with Flip Saunders literally fighting for his job and national media circling over his team like a black cloud, the players will step up with a victory.
TOWNSEND: The Raptors, under new head coach Dwane Casey, don’t take kindly to opposing offenses, and the team currently ranks second in defensive field goal percentage (39.4). The Wizards, of course, own the second-lowest shooting percentage in the NBA (39.7); it’s imperative that Wall & Co. push the tempo, crash the boards and find peace at the free throw line. It won’t be easy, but if they play the right way—scouting reports, y’all—the Wizards could win their first game in almost nine months.