Happy Holidays to all, except the Toronto Raptors. While children across the world were opening up their presents on Christmas morning, I can only imagine that Raptors players, coaches and management were all served with nothing but a lump of coal (and hopefully the instructions on how to play a complete 48 minutes of basketball).
Here’s how to watch:
How to Watch:
Sportsnet, at 7:00 pm ET
Toronto: Dennis Schroder, O.G. Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Wasington: Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford
Toronto: Christian Koloko (Out - Respiratory), Garrett Temple (Doubtful - Ankle)
Washington: Kyle Kuzma (Questionable - Quad), Delon Wright (Out - Rest)
The holiday season has not served Toronto well, as the Raptors loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday marked their third straight loss, two of which were on their home court. On paper, we can’t be too upset about a team that was projected to be a play-in bubble team losing to the reigning champions and the reigning MVP. It’s how they’ve lost games that Raptors fans can certainly have some feelings about, especially the Utah game.
With a 14 point lead entering the fourth quarter, Toronto posted a -20 point differential in the final frame at home to the depleted Utah Jazz to let the game slip away. The night before, the team held a nine point lead after the first quarter in Philadelphia before a -12 point differential in the second saw the lead taken back by the Sixers.
Toronto will look to go up early again in this matchup, as Washington sits second last in the East with a 5-24 record. (I had to correct myself in that last sentence as I originally wrote that the Wizards are last in the East, before I remembered the Detroit Pistons exist and loom as a Raptors opponent in just a few days, which Jay Rosales wrote about here.)
No win has come easy for Toronto this season, especially on the road, as they’ve posted a 3-9 record on the road this season. On the topic of nothing coming easy, you may remember one of those 24 Wizards losses came at the hands of the Raptors back on November 13th when Washington held a 19 point lead at halftime before a second half comeback saw Toronto win the game by four points.
As frustrating as the Raptors have been recently, the all-star level play of Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam has been refreshing and encouraging to watch. The pair have alternated leading the team in scoring for their past six games and much of the season.
They won’t face much of a test tonight, being guarded by Washington’s frontcourt of Daniel Gafford, Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija. The Wizards have posted the league’s worst defensive rating to this point in the season, without being too much better on offence with the eighth worst offence rating.
The main key to tonight’s matchup: play a complete game. No team in this league is going to give up and allow another to walk right over them, as the basement dwelling Wizards, Pistons and Spurs have shown a number of teams. Their efforts may not result in wins most of the season, but that doesn’t mean the effort isn’t there.
As Darko Rajakovic looks to trot out the same starting lineup for the umpteenth game in a row, Toronto will need to continue to start the game strong and on time, and be able to hold a lead this time. The production from Barnes and Siakam will likely be there, so it falls upon the other starters and first few players off the bench in Schroder, Anunoby, Poeltl and GTJ to be consistent, make good decisions on offence and hold the fort while the two potential all-stars are off the floor.