While on a quick sojourn from the house that Drake turnt, the Toronto Raptors (10-6) and Washington Wizards (6-7) will meet for the first time (excluding preseason!) since the W's embarrassed Toronto in the first round of the playoffs last year.
Toronto, riding high after big time wins over both the Clippers and Cavaliers, looks to continue it's three game winning streak on the road. John Wall and Co. must be glad to be home, as they're going to be trying to snap a nasty streak of their own: they've lost their last three contests by a combined 64 points. Yikes. What in the world is going on in Washington? They've got an elite point guard, young talent and capable veterans - the roster looks like it should work. I guess that's why we play the games.
Here are three things to watch for:
Run Young Man, Run
Washington came into this season with designs on playing faster; Kris Humphries and Otto Porter Jr. were added to the starting line-up, while Gary Neal and Jared Dudley were added to strengthen the bench. So far, the results aren't great. The Wiz have leapt into a tie for 5th in the NBA at 102.7 possessions per 48 minutes, a huge increase from last seasons 98.2. However John Wall is averaging his lowest FG% (41.1) since his rookie year and is shooting below 30% from deep, while leading the team with a 27.3 usage rate. Even with Bradley 'Sometimes I'm Healthy' Beal taking a big step forward offensively, sloppy, inefficient play is killing the team; they currently rank 26th in the league at 16.3 turnovers per game. Creating more possessions only works if you take care of the rock. Case in point: of Washington's 7 losses so far this season, 6 have been by double-digits. They've won only one such game this year.
Back to Back
Toronto is coming in with two full days of rest, while the Wizards just got curb-stomped on the road by Boston, losing 111-78 last night. Will the Wizards be motivated to bounce back, or downtrodden by their recent egregiously stinky play?
With debate raging about who the NBA's next fired coach will be, I'd look no further than Randy Wittman if Washington continues to struggle. This was a team that was expected to at least replicate last years trip to the 2nd round of the NBA playoffs, and while it's still early, something doesn't look right in DC.
Gimme a Second Chance
The battle of the boards, as always, will be key. However, it might be a bigger factor than normal tonight. Toronto comes into the game ranked 28th in the Association with only 18.1 assists per game. They are, however, 5th in the NBA in offensive rebounds per 100 possessions. How are those things linked, you might wonder? Well they aren't, really. But if you're not going to be creating easy buckets via assisted baskets, it helps to get a hell of a lot of second chances, something Toronto has done well at creating for themselves so far.
While Jonas Valanciunas was certainly a huge part of the team's rebounding, Bismack Biyombo has filled in admirably for him, posting 26 boards (6 offensive) in the two contests since JV went down. Washington has done a reasonably good job at limiting opponents offensive rebounds, but their overall rebound differential ranks 23rd; Toronto ranks 4th. The Wiz also allow 24.5 opponent assists per game; only Denver and Brooklyn have been worse. As Neil Young was once misquoted as saying: tonight's the night to get the rock moving, Raps!
Where to Watch: Sportsnet One, 7pm EST