Rudy Gay had an impressive performance on Friday night, leading the Toronto Raptors to a gritty win against the Knicks. Gay had a season-high 32 points, carrying the Dinos in stretches en route to perhaps his best game in a Raptors’ uniform.
The last couple of home performances have felt like playoff games. If the team brings more of the same tonight, they’ll find life much easier against the Washington Wizards.
These teams met recently in a game that was made memorable by Matt Devlin angering Wale. The Wizards shouldn’t be underestimated though, and their play has been slowly improving as of late. They won against the Denver Nuggets last week and followed it up with a spirited, narrow win against the Houston Rockets over the weekend.
Wale will presumably not be in attendance, but here are the three keys to a Raptors victory.
1) Point Guard Play: Sebastian Telfair has arrived to give the team depth at the point guard position and will have to battle hard for playing time. Kyle Lowry is the current starter and John Lucas has been shooting very well since the Rudy Gay trade. Lowry had a great game against the Knicks and made some important plays down the stretch. John Wall shot 1/12 and had seven turnovers last time these two teams met. Lowry did a great job forcing him into mistakes and low percentage shots. More of the same, please.
2) Spacing: Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan are one of the best wing pairings this team has had in recent memory. They both possess the ability to score the basketball and execute the midrange jumper. They both, however, enjoy playing closer to the basket and at times, this narrowness can hinder the Raptors. This was evident in the loss against Memphis, particularly late in the game. DeRozan and Gay were both operating in the same vicinity and the floor spacing was non-existent at times. Good defensive teams are not going to allow the Raptors to always get away with this, and yes, surprisingly the Wizards (top 5 in defensive efficiency) are one of these such clubs.
3) Bench Play: The Raptors’ bench was seemingly weakened after the Gay trade and it’s a testament to some of the players on the pine that the results have actually improved. Alan Anderson and John Lucas have been playing very well as of late an will need to maintain that level of play to keep the team in the win column. Sebastian Telfair could make his Raptor debut tonight and is shooting a career-best 38% from 3 point territory.