After getting a harsh dose of reality in their loss against Cleveland, the Raptors kicked off one of their easier stretches of the season two nights ago by soundly beating Brooklyn. After this one, they'll be facing Philadelphia, Orlando, and Brooklyn again in their next four games. While the initial prognosis for DeMarre Carroll is 6-8 weeks to full recovery, it's still nice that the Raptors will be able to burn some time by facing the few dregs still remaining in the East Conference.
Of course, that's not to say Washington is an easy matchup by any means. The Wizards currently sit 12th in the conference with a record of 15-18, but are still only 2.5 games out of a playoff position. With Bradley Beal still injured, the Wizards did get a Player of the Month (DeMar DeRozan was nominated) performance out of John Wall in December. Wall averaged 22.6 points, 11.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals and looks to be hitting peak form as we near the All Star break.
The Raptors sit 2-0 against the Wizards this season, but the difference between the teams has been minuscule, with the games being decided by a total of 5 points. This should be another close one.
Things to look for
Marcin Gortat vs. Jonas Valanciunas:
One of the common threads in that dominant playoff sweep by the Wizards was Gortat abusing Valanciunas in the pick and roll and shutting him down in the post. JV had his best game since returning to the lineup from injury against the Nets, registering 22 points, 11 rebounds and playing sound defense on Brook Lopez all game. On an undermanned Wizards team, it'll be important to shut down one of their more effective players in Gortat.
Kyle Lowry vs. John Wall:
The two All Star starting guards from last year have continued to shine this year as well. Wall had an abysmal November before his stellar December, shooting only 38% from the field for the month. He's turned things around since, so this matchup should be another one to watch. Lowry was playing the best basketball of his career since hitting a bit of a speed bump towards the end of 2015. Once rated 3rd in ESPN's RPM, Lowry's now down to 6th -- which you know, is still amazing, but he has slipped A LITTLE. If the Raptors can keep Wall quiet, it's hard to see how the Wizards win tonight.
Here are some of the guys who played against the Raptors a week ago and in their last game against the Cavaliers: Jared Dudley (I know he's good, but he's playing ~35 minutes now), Garrett Temple, Kelly Oubre Jr, Jarell Eddie, Gary Neal. They brought Nene off the bench agains the Cavs, so that helps a little bit. Both of these teams have below average options off the bench. The game could well be decided by a Terrence Ross explosion or Cory Joseph clutch jumper. Winning this battle will be a key should the starters play to a relative stalemate.
Where to Watch: Sportsnet One, 7pm EST