Opening Statements: Wizards vs Raptors, Game 34 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Raptors, Game 34

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Updated: January 8, 2016

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Teams: Wizards vs Raptors
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Raptors fav’d by 2


It was all good just a week ago. Well, sort of good, if we’re being completely honest. The Wizards were suffering what was believed to be a slight hiccup—the L.A. Clippers and Paul “I Called Game” Pierce snapped the team’s four-game winning streak. The Washington professional basketball team had gotten to .500, and all they needed was a victory over last season’s playoff doormat, Toronto, to salvage some good vibes heading into 2016. As TAI’s Adam McGinnis has pointed out, maybe 2015 is just a year that the Wizards would like to put behind them anyway.

It is hard to not remember the sweep of the Drakes, and it will for sure be something that the Wizards will be able to hold over the heads of our neighbors north of the border, but in reality there can be much cause to be jealous of how the Raptors have managed to achieve a level of success and consistency.

The Raptors are 22-15 on the season and they can thank the Wizards for two of those wins which have them sitting comfortably in the playoff hunt in a much-improved Eastern Conference. Last week’s game in Toronto saw the Wizards storm back from a double-digit halftime deficit, only to ultimately fall short of completing the comeback, because they could not hit on three attempts from 3-point range to tie that game.

The last time the Raptors were in D.C., they were the ones who issued the furious comeback. Unlike the Wizards, the Raps were actually able to capitalize on their opportunities: we watched Cory Joseph hit the biggest shot of his career for his hometown team to win it at the buzzer. Oftentimes, NBA games come down to the last possession and single shots—a miss there and a make here can determine so much on a season outlook. John Wall missed two critical free throws in that Nov. 28 loss at the Phone Booth, but as a true leader, he put the blame on himself and was able to not only put a terrible November behind him but also have one of the best months of his career in December.

Speaking of missed free throws, the Wizards had better get a grip on what has turned out to be a serious problem for this team. Shooting 75.2 percent from the charity stripe, ranked 19th in the league, is negatively affecting the outcomes of games that the Wizards desperately need to be winning to stay competitive. It would behoove the Wizards to bring their best effort heading into All-Star break if they want to stay in contention for the playoffs.

The Raptors aren’t going to make it easy for them to get back on track, but Washington has found a formula for success against Toronto before. The key to any Raptors-Wizards matchup is the ability for the Wiz to maintain proper floor spacing with their outside shooting, which allows the Wizards to attack the Raps fourth-ranked defense in terms of points allowed per game (96.9).

Heading into tonight’s game, the Wizards will be to happy to continue acclimating injured players such as Nene and Gary Neal back into the lineup after they’ve missed extensive time; both returned to action Wednesday against Cleveland. The Wizards fell to the Cavs, 121-116, and that score truly does not reflect how poorly they played down the stretch, allowing Cleveland (Kyrie Irving, specifically) to blow the doors off the defense as they foolishly switched every pick-and-roll.

The Raptors are coming into tonight’s game after a win against the lowly Brooklyn Nets which prevented them from getting into a slide of their own. While the Wizards are getting healthier, the Raptors are getting hit by the injury bug, having recently loss their big off-season acquisition, DeMarre Carroll, for an extended period after he had a surgical procedure on his knee. There is no sympathy around the league for teams losing significant contributors to injury, especially none coming from the Wizards, who were fresh off of piecing together lineups because damn near half the squad couldn’t get out of the training room.

Hopefully the Wizards can find some motivation to beat a team that they already emasculated in the past, and maybe a little practice will help sharpen the on-court product. The Washington Post‘s Jorge Castillo relays that the Wizards on Thursday were finally able to hold their first 5-on-5 practice session since late November—they finally have enough healthy bodies. Hey, at this point in the season, fans can look for any small detail that can get this ship turned around. We’re “talking about practice” now; it will actually help them on game day, and maybe, just maybe we can start talking about playoffs.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.