Raptors come into Washington feeling good about themselves. The last time it was a similar situation after a win over Minnesota the day before. True the Raptors never won yesterday but the fact they could hang with the Heat had to instill some confidence. Again the Wizards had the chance to rest and prepare for the Raptors. But the difference might be what happened on Friday in Toronto, where the Raptors dismantled the Wizards in their second meeting of the season. Demar DeRozan had a loud and strong message for his doubters yesterday in Miami. The question will be was that just a flash of brilliance or something to build on. After all most players can find motivation to take on Lebron James and the Heat. Little different story for John Wall and the Wizards.
You want to talk about struggling how about we talk about John Wall. We didn't in the last preview for the Wizards. Maybe it was the fact he only scored 2 points the game prior to the loss in Toronto. At the time he was drafted he was going to be the guy to fix the Wizards. We were suppose to forget about all the dysfunction,Gilbert Arenas and guns in the locker room. But for the most part Wall has been firing blanks and is starting to look like the big B word. You know the one many Toronto fans called Andrea Bargnani in the past. After a somewhat successful rookie season that was held back by injuries Wall's numbers are down across the board this season through 24 games. Averaging a point less a game and 1.2 assists a game. But beyond the numbers he just doesn't seem to be the leader the Wizards were hoping for. If there is a team that is more dysfunctional than the Wizards in the NBA I am not sure who that would be. But when you are the first overall pick and your being out scored by Nick Young on a regular basis something is wrong.
In some ways you almost would have liked to see the Heat pull away so the Raptors could have rested some guys for the game tonight in Washington. You also hope that James Johnson will be good to go. He left the game turning his ankle and did return for a brief time. He is the Raptors best defender and shot blocker and ads an element on the floor that is unique. Can Amir Johnson find that monster inside from Friday or will it be the back to reality performance we saw in Miami? Lots of questions for the Raptors but as many as the Raptors have the Wizards may have far more. The ultimate script for the Raptors in these last 3 games was to beat Washington, avoid embarrassment in Miami and then beat Washington again. The Raptors have accomplished 2/3rd's of that equation. They will look to finish the deal tonight in D.C hopefully led by Demar DeRozan.
D Is Key: Washington is not unlike Toronto in the sense of being challenged to score and they want to get out in transition and score. So transition D is at the top of the list in terms of defensive concerns. But in general this team struggles to score so do a good job on D and they not unlike the Raptors will get frustrated by failing to score.
Glass Eaters: Raptors success on Friday was largely based on rebounding. Everyone chipped in from Jose Calderon to Amir Johnson. In total the Raptors had season highs in rebounds, points in the paint and second chance points. A similar effort will lead to a similar result.
Be A Star Demar: We need to see more of the same from Demar DeRozan. He was aggressive all afternoon in Miami and got off to a good start. We even saw that effort extend to the defence as DeRozan's confidence grew. It has been a rather long slump for DeRozan and if he can get back to back solid games under his belt maybe he can turn the corner. It is vital for this team when Bargnani is out that they get a more consistent performance from Demar. When they don't get that, it makes things much more difficult when he does not show up. So show up strong.
No moral victories tonight. Only the real thing will do for the Raptors. They remain hanging around and not totally out picture for the playoffs. The schedule starts to turn for the Raptors soon with a 7 game home stand and it would be nice if they could be building some momentum heading towards that. The Raptors have not exactly been great at home at 3-6 but part of that could be the blame of this crazy schedule. Those excuses will not be there this month as the Raptors get the benefits of all they have endured early in the schedule this month. Just not today as they again get the shaft from a schedule point of view.