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3 in the Key - Raptors' Game-Day Preview vs. Wizards

The Toronto Raptors will look to rebound from their 34 point loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night as they return home to take on the struggling Washington Wizards. After being blown out in their last matchup against the Wizards the Raptors should be out for blood this time around. The HQ has your keys for a much needed Raptors victory.

The last time the Toronto Raptors faced the Washington Wizards they received an old fashion beat down by the league's worst team-and that was with their leading scorer in Andrea Bargnani in the lineup.

Tonight the Raptors will once again take on the Washington Wizards; this time around the Dinos will be without Andrea Bargnani and possibly another important piece in Linas Kleiza. The Raptors are also coming off of their worst loss of the season at the hands of the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

Needless to say, the Raptors are just not in a great place right now.

But perhaps that makes this the perfect time for them to be hosting the Wizards, who have struggled all season long and will enter play tonight having lost 7 of their last 10 games.

Toronto should have a little extra motivation coming into this one considering how poorly they faired against the Wizin their previous matchup-not to mention the fact that the Dinos spent what should have been their day off yesterday practicing after the debacle that was their loss to the C's.

With those factors in mind, here are your keys to the game:

1) Defend the Paint: In the last meeting between these two teams the Raptors surrendered 54 points in the paint; that was more than half of the Wizards' total points for the game scored from 15 feet and in.

If the Dinos hope to win, they are going to have to make the Wiz a jump shooting team; the Wizards are sixth from the bottom of the league in three-point shooting and fourth from the bottom in field goal shooting. This means that we could see a number of different coaching strategies employed to ensure that this does not happen again.

One possibility could see Dwane Casey reinsert Jarryd Bayless into the starting lineup to guard the speedy John Wall. After Bayless' effort in slowing All-Star point guard Deron Williams, this seems like a solid strategy.

The other possibility is that we may see a steady diet of zone defense, forcing the young Wizards team to try and solve what the Raptors have been effective at employing at varying times this season.

2) Play with Energy: The Raps have come out flat in the last few games and their energy level has been a huge reason why this some of the blowouts we've seen this season, have occurred.

It is no secret that the Raptors have a serious talent deficiency, and on most nights they are going up against teams that are just more talented than they are; the only way to overcome that is to simply outhustle the other team. The Wizards may be more talented than the Dinos, but they make mistakes and if the Dinos can just play with energy like they did against the Nets, then this should be very getable W.

2) Get DeRozan Going: I know this has been a key to just about every game the Raptors have played without Bargnani this season, but without Bargs in the lineup the Dinos need someone to step up, and that person should almost always be Demar DeRozan. When DeMar plays well, like he did against the Nets, he gives his team a chance to win.

DeRozan should be looking to attack early and often against the weak perimeter D of the Wizards; and when he isn't attacking he should be coming off screens and taking those mid range jumpers he has shown he can make. Making sure that DeMar is getting back to what he is good at is essential for this team.

After back-to-back poor performances against the Hawks and the Celtics DeMar DeRozan is primed for a bounce back performance against the Wiz.