Here we go again… Tonight’s Wizards-Raptors game is the third of four meetings between the two clubs. Washington and Toronto have split the 2011-12 series thus far, each team celebrating a decisive victory over the other — the average winning margin is 16 points. Although the Torontonians have been more successful on the road (5 wins) than the D.C. locals have been at home (3 wins) this season, the Raptors haven’t won a game at the Verizon Center since 2009. Consider heading to the game if you have a couple of hours to kill tonight: tickets can be scored for a buck! Raptorholic Sam Holako (@RapsFan) of ESPN TrueHoop/Raptors Republic joins TAI’s John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend) and Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) for tonight’s 3-on-3 roundball roundtable. Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) Fact or Fiction: Rashard Lewis will score four or more points tonight, joining Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce as the only players in NBA history to have scored at least 15,000 points, grabbed 5,000 rebounds and hit 1,500 three-pointers in their careers. [UPDATE: Lewis is out versus the Raptors due to what is being called a sore right knee; Chris Singleton replaced him in the Wizards starting lineup.]
HOLAKO: Fact. If Rashard can’t score 4 points against the Raptors, then he probably doesn’t deserve to be in that company. On a side note, I was hoping Lewis had more gas in the tank after the ‘steroid’ incident. I’m a big fan of his; undeserved massive contract not withstanding.
TOWNSEND: Fact. I’ll play the numbers: Lewis is averaging 8.5 points per game this season and has scored fewer than four points in only four his 22 appearances this season. Watching Lewis this season — looking like a zombie — it’s almost hard to believe he’s accomplished so much, especially since Lewis is a few years younger than both Kidd and Pierce.
WEIDIE: Fact: He’ll get time for chances because there’s really no one else. No other healthy veterans to replace, sadly, who is likely the Wizards’ best back-to-the-basket scorer (although Trevor Booker is coming along lately). Remember how Lewis scored the first eight points of the third quarter for the Wizards in Toronto on Friday? Yea, something absurd like that may happen again. So, congrats on the impending achievement, Sweet Lew.
#2) The last time these two clubs met, Toronto ripped off 68 points in the paint, walking away victors in a 106-89 contest. The Raptors posted a franchise-record 61 rebounds in regulation time (the second-highest total in team history), including 23 offensive boards, which helped create 28 second-chance points for Toronto. What, if anything, can the Wizards do to slow the Raptors rebounders?
HOLAKO: Toronto has been making a living (a poor living at that) on the perimeter for most of the season. You had to appreciate them pulling down 61 rebounds and getting 28 second chance points, but that is not the norm; not even close to being the norm. The Raptors seem to rebound the offensive glass more aggressively against the Wizards (they had 14 in the first game of the season), so keeping active bodies on Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, and James Johnson will be key in slowing them down. After falling short with the furious comeback against the Heat last night, I expect this one to be a tighter affair, similar to what we saw in the first game of the season.
TOWNSEND: Boxing out would be a good start. The Wizards have some wide bodies (Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin) and some freak athletes (JaVale McGee), but they’re often short on discipline, focus, anticipation, and effort. The team’s bigs need to get on the grind and throw their weight (and hips) around. Respect the hustle.
WEIDIE: Putting a body on Amir Johnson (13 rebounds, 7 offensive off the bench on Friday in a pseudo-All-Star effort) will help this time. Continuing to start Trevor Booker (inserted back into the starting lineup in place of Jan Vesely for the Clippers game) will probably help too — it appears that Toronto got 11 of their 23 offensive rebounds in the first quarter last Friday. The most influential component, however, might be JaVale McGee showing up and actually caring about being a presence against the likes of Aaron Gray and Jamaal Magloire. After all, McGee is the future of the NBA according to his mom.
#3) With Andrea Bargnani still out indefinitely with a calf injury, who will be the difference-maker for the Raptors, losers of the last three games in Washington, D.C.: Jose Calderon (who dished out 17 dimes in Friday’s win over Washington) or the Toronto bench (which scored a season-high 68 points in that same meeting)?
HOLAKO: Look for Calderon, Bayless, Barbosa and Amir Johnson to lead the charge. DeMar is a bit of an enigma since he’s had a tough time with consistency this season (had a monster game against the Heat last night). If Kleiza and Johnson can keep up their recent pace, they will make it tough for the Wizards in the paint. Ultimately, this is the second game of a back-to-back for the Raptors, so I’m liking the Wizards’ chances if Rashard, Young and Crawford can open up some space in the paint for Wall, McGee and Brooker (I like this kid, he’s got heart) to operate.
TOWNSEND: Jose Calderon had three assists and five turnovers in a matinee loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday, an unlikely line for the NBA’s assist leader (and a guard with one of the better assist-to-turnover ratios, 4.26-to-1). I expect Calderon to bounce back with a strong performance, working the pick-and-roll against a polite Wizards defense. It’ll be important for Calderon to get the Raptors out to a fast start in this one; Toronto has not begun the second quarter with a lead since a January 13 meeting against the Indiana Pacers — a 95-90 loss, and a game in which the Raptors were outscored 80-63 over the final three quarters.
WEIDIE: I don’t think Calderon looks like Steve Nash in the process of chewing up the Wizards again like he did on Friday (17 assists by himself, four more than the Wizards had as a team). Washington should be more weary of Raptors bench players who pack an offensive punch — such Linas Kleiza and Leandro Barbosa — as opposed to Jordan Crawford, the only real capable scorer off the Wizards’ bench.