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Raptors look to extend win streak vs. the Wizards: Preview, start time, and more

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After three straight wins, featuring a mix of strong individual performances, the Raptors return home to take on the most delusional team in the league.

Toronto Raptors: Why are the Raptors shooting 3-pointers so poorly? Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

Christmas is here!

No, not because Thanksgiving is over. For me, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for one reason only: I get to write about the Washington Wizards. Sorry, allow me to re-phrase that: I get to verbally dismantle the Washington Wizards. In fact, I could read disparaging statements about John Wall and company for hours and never get bored.

Whether it’s the constant dysfunction, disillusionment or dreadful performances, there’s always a reason to laugh at the Wiz. Notorious Raptor-hater (and worst analyst in sports) Paul Pierce’s affiliation with the Wizards continues to tickle my fancy, as they currently sit two spots out of the playoffs while the Raptors sit atop the Eastern conference.

Of course, Washington swept the Raptors in the 2015 playoffs, so perhaps the bitterness that lingers in my heart is preventing me from writing an unbiased game preview; however, I don’t care at all. I need to get this off my chest.

The Wizards are like a Michael Bay movie: despite the expensive, over-the-top special effects, the result is an abhorrent mess of cataclysmic explosions with almost no redeeming qualities. However, unlike a Michael Bay movie, the Wizards exist outside the confines of a screen. They’re real, and their failure is spectacular.

Tonight, the Raptors face off against the Wizards and there is no team in the NBA I would rather watch get pummelled into the ground for 48 minutes. Conversely, if the Raptors lose tonight, I will be depressed for days. Regardless, we’re in for an entertaining night full of pent-up resentment. Are you ready?

Here are tonight’s details:

*****

Where to Watch:

TSN, 7:30 PM EST

Lineups:

Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka

Washington – John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kelly Oubre Jr., Otto Porter Jr., Thomas Bryant

Injuries:

Toronto – C.J. Miles, OG Anunoby (day-to-day)

Washington – Dwight Howard (butt troubles)

*****

Guess who’s back

After resting on Wednesday against the Orlando Magic, Kawhi is expected to play tonight. Leonard performed especially well to start the season, but has hit a bit of a shooting slump. In November, he has connected on just 21.7 percent of his three-point attempts, 44.4 percent of his field goals and 80.8 percent of his free throws — a far cry from the 50/40/90 splits he saw to begin the season. After having played just nine games last year, and entering an entirely new situation this season, many anticipated it would take some time to settle down and perform up to his usual MVP-calibre standards.

We’ve yet to see Kawhi at his most explosive this year, so hopefully he takes some strides to pull it all together against the Raptors’ arch-nemesis.

Resurgence?

The Wizards recently changed their starting lineup, inserting Kelly Oubre Jr. and Thomas Bryant for Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard. Typically, Ian Mahinmi had started in Dwight’s place, but has since seen multiple DNP-CDs since his return. Now, it appears he’s been removed from their rotation entirely, even with Dwight out once again, which has proved to be a smart move. After numerous verbal altercations during a Wizards practice recently, the team pulled off one of the most unlikely comebacks of the season against the Clippers, erasing a 24-point deficit to storm back and win by seven, including a 38-point fourth quarter. If God is a lie and the Wizards start to put it together, this bodes badly for the Raptors who have performed just 24th in the league in fourth quarter point-differential.

Though, Nick Nurse and Kyle Lowry proved that not all hope is lost against the Magic a few nights ago when Danny Green hit a game-winner with less than a second left on the clock. It could just be wishful thinking, but maybe the Raptors’ future isn’t filled entirely with late game iso-ball?

Let’s Get Comfortable

After hitting a rough patch, the Raptors have won three games in a row (two of them quite handily). Yet, it still doesn’t feel like this team has hit their full potential. Fred VanVleet has been making questionable decisions on the offensive end and has disappeared on defense for large stretches. Kawhi isn’t entirely healthy, C.J. Miles can’t buy a shot (27.3% from three, 30.4% from the field) and the team has seen multiple injuries.

Health has absolutely been an issue thus far, but there are still on-court issues that need to be addressed. When he plays, Delon Wright has been inconsistent on both ends of the floor. Far too often, the whole team looks disinterested and discombobulated. I expect these problems to dissipate as the players lean into their new roles and become more comfortable with the offense. If the Raptors reach their potential, the league is in serious trouble.

Lastly, be on the lookout for undeservedly cocky Wizards quotes and dumb Dwight Howard jokes. This team truly is a comedy gold mine.