D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs Raptors, Game 30
Before the season began, progncastinators pegged Miami, Indiana, Chicago, and Brooklyn as the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers and the Heat remain in the top two, but due to injuries, amongst other issues, the Bulls and the Nets have not lived up to their lofty expectations. The New York Knicks are a mess, and the Cavs simply stink. Detroit’s splashy moves have produced underwhelming results. The Atlanta Hawks have been a slight surprise and currently sit in third place, but their best player, Al Horford, is now out for the season, and they are likely to struggle without his services.
This hollowing out of the East has allowed teams a chance to move up in the standings. Enter the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors. The Wizards (14-15) sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The surging Raptors (15-15) reside atop the embarrassingly weak Atlantic division, which is good enough for the fourth spot.
A January contest between clubs hovering around .500 would normally garner little attention, but tonight’s game is a possible preview to a first playoff matchup. Crazy, huh? Well, both cities had mayors get busted after smoking crack on video, so anything is possible!
In their only meeting so far this season, John Wall was a beast but Washington came up short in Toronto, 96-88. A notable occurrence in the loss was Marcin Gortat ripping up a towel. Reactions from
Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker at Polish Hammer’s behavior are still hilarious.
Teams: Wizards vs Raptors
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Television: CSN, TSN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, CJCL
Spread: Washington fav’d by 3 points
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: In Zach Lowe’s excellent breakdown of Toronto, the Grantland writer asked this question: Are these new Raptors for real? Is anything real in the Eastern Conference?
@RapsFan: The short answer is yes; these guys are for reals. The Gay trade shored up our bench AND kicked the players in the ass a bit. Since, the team has gone 8-3 with impressive wins over the Mavs, Thunder and Pacers (who they beat on the second night of a back-to-back; they beat the Bulls the night before). Being .500 at this point of the season has totally exceeded everyone’s expectations, but you need to take one thing in consideration: the Raptors have done a great job of beating the teams they should be beating, having won 12 of 15 against teams under .500. In the (L)East, with so many games with bad teams, this should not come as a surprise. Also, don’t be surprised if they pass Atlanta for third now that Horford went down with another tittie injury.
Q #2: Does the Raptors fan base want to tank, or go for a playoff run? Is there a consensus one way or the other?
@RapsFan: Split right down the middle. The problem is that when you take a step back, and look at the situation objectively, this team is fourth in the East with a .500 record. I’ll let that sink in for a second … they are basically a treadmill team who happen to have home court in the first round of the playoffs because the rest of the teams in the conference are horrible (which Ujiri said we wouldn’t be). Now, since he’s only been on the job for six months, and has been able to erase the largest remaining Colangelo mistakes, you have to give him the time to execute his plan, but it leaves the fans with more winning than we’ve been accustomed to since Chris Bosh left. Sorry for the rant.
Q #3: In 2011 NBA Draft, the Raptors chose Jonas Valanciunas one pick before the Wizards took Jan Vesely. The Wizards added Vesely to the roster right away, but have declined a team option on Vesely. Jonas stayed in Europe for a year after Toronto selected him… How is the Lithuanian developing in his sophomore season? Is he a future building block?
@RapsFan: How can you give up on this??
But yea … sorry for that one. Unless there is another godfather offer (Harden and Valanciunas as principals in a trade, if you can believe that was an actual offer by Presti), Jonas is considered a franchise cornerstone. It’s tough to get into Ujiri’s head (you can’t tell me anyone thought the Raptors would go 8-3 after trading Gay) right now, but to pry Valanciunas, it’s probably going to cost an unprotected top-5 pick in this years draft.
Q #4: Washington is coming off a dud home loss to Dallas and the Raptors are riding high from a home victory over the Indiana Pacers. Who wins and why?
@RapsFan: The Raptor team that has been winning lately is one thats been moving the ball around, getting good looks and knocking them down. One that runs a pick-and-roll between Vasquez and Johnson to perfection. One that sees Terrence Ross shoot and slash like he was drafted to do last year. At some point, this team will stop winning seven of 10 games, and it could easily happen at the hands of a team that has Wall running amuck on offense and making things very difficult for the perimeter defense of the Raptors. One more point to consider: the Raptors play better on the road (9-7) than they do at home (6-8), for what it’s worth. I realize that’s a non-answer, but what I thought I knew and understood about this team has been utterly shattered over the last couple weeks. Your guess is as good as mine.
Q #5: Who are these Wizards?
@AdamMcGinnis: Pixel wordsmiths often go to great lengths in analyzing sports. Team quotes are parsed into deep meanings, insights from anonymous sources are spun to create assertive narratives, and complex data points are presented as empirical truths. I am guilty of these creative behaviors. Sometimes the simple question is the most poignant observation of them all. How good is this Wizards team? Through more than a third of this 2013-14 season,
it’s difficult to come up with a concrete response. For starters, Washington is not awful and they do play an entertaining brand of basketball. The players are easy to root for and their quirky personalities do not over shadow any of their on-court accomplishments. However, they can’t get over the .500 hump and as of now only possess one win over a winning team. It is a struggle to come up with any signature victories. The bench is a constant worry—now being held together by a minutes-restricted $13 million dollar-a-year power forward—and the injury bug is always lurking.
Similar to my golf game and dating luck, this team is streaky at best. The Wizards are consistently, inconsistent. They will find a way to pull out road wins that they normally would lose (Celtics, Nets, Pistons, Knicks) but then drop winnable home games (Cavs, 76ers, Nuggets, Bucks). Here is how their season has played out in wins and losses: 2-7, 7-2, 0-4, 3-0, 5-2.
The intriguing part is that this squad could end up being the best the franchise has produced in decades, or it could flame out to the lottery again. They likely will end up somewhere in the middle of those extremes, but all outcomes are plausible, which is weird to think on Jan. 3. I cannot give you a genuine non-homer answer of where this Wiz ship is headed. What does any of this have to do with the Raptors? (Get to the point, hypocrite.)
The Raps are balling these days and tonight’s battle will be a good measuring stick of where the Wiz lie in comparison to the Eastern Conference contenders. Washington needs to sweep these two weekend home games—Toronto tonight and Golden State on Sunday—before they embark on a brutal stretch of six games in eight days.
When T-Dot and Chocolate City get after it, there is always potential for unpredictable fireworks. In a meeting last season, D.C. rapper Wale went after Toronto’s TV play-by-play commentator, Matt Devlin.