Once again on Thursday night, the Toronto Raptors host a potential playoff foe, this time against John Wall and the Washington Wizards at 7 p.m. on TSN.

It’s the fourth meeting on the season between these two and the Raptors have a chance for the sweep after a 96-88 win on Nov. 22, a 101-88 win on Jan. 3 and a 103-93 victory on Feb. 18. Do the Raptors just have the Wizards number? I’m not sure such a phenomenon exists, but they certainly do match up well.

That will go doubly on Thursday with Nene out of the lineup for Washington, replaced by Drew Gooden’s beard and a handful of others sharing spot duty. That doesn’t make this one a layup, but with another victory the Raptors will look even more like heavy favorites in the first round of the playoffs.

First consider the East standings (excludes Brooklyn’s Wednesday game against Portland):

Rank Team GB 3rd
3 Toronto
4 Chicago 1
5 Washington 3
6 Brooklyn 4.5
7 Charlotte 5
8 Atlanta 6
9 Detroit 9.5
10 Cleveland 10
11 New York 11

Now consider the Raptors track record against teams in the 4-11 range in the East since the Rudy Gay trade:

Result Opponent Cumulative
W @ Chicago 1-0
L Charlotte 1-1
W @ New York 2-1
W New York 3-1
W @ Chicago 4-1
W @ Washington 5-1
W Detroit 6-1
W Brooklyn 7-1
L @ Charlotte 7-2
W @ Brooklyn 8-2
W Atlanta 9-2
W @ Washington 10-2
L Chicago 10-3
W Cleveland 11-3
W @ Cleveland 12-3
TBD Washington TBD

Regular season games are not playoff series, of course, and Charlotte looms as a problem. The Bulls wouldn’t exactly be desirable, either. But New York, Washington, Detroit, Atlanta, Cleveland, these are all match-ups I’d feel comfortable with. Brooklyn is a bit of a wildcard in there.

Anyway, Washington is not all of these other teams, but yet another win against a team just a bit worse than the Raptors will further the growing narrative that this team rarely takes complete games off and, while they may have a bad half here and there, they’ve got the talent to take care of these match-ups even on a bad night.

That’s if they win. If they lose, obviously, we fire Dwane Casey and trade DeMar DeRozan and let Kyle Lowry walk as a free agent.

To help set the stage, Kyle Weidie of Truth About It, king of the in-game Vines, answered some questions for us.

1. If the season ended today, the Raptors and Wizards wouldn’t face off in the first round of the playoffs, but it seems like a real possibility. How would you evaluate Washington’s chances in a seven-game showdown?

Now that Nene has been carriage’d for six weeks (and it could be more, who really knows), Toronto’s already distinct advantage in size inside is, well, heightened. With a healthy Nene, I think the Wizards could compete better than their 0-3 record versus the Raptors so far this season so reflects.

John Wall might say that he has a chip on his shoulder because of a Team USA ‘snub’, but Kyle Lowry, in going against Wall, clearly has shown his own chip-on-shoulder competitiveness (over the All-Star snub) in being the best point leader I’ve seen him be. (Admittedly, I haven’t watch a ton of the Raptors this year.)

If Lowry can keep the matchup even, I’d say that the Wizards would need really hot shooting just to push a series to seven games with Toronto. And at that point, anything could happen. Otherwise, right now, Toronto is the better team, even if I do think that the Wizards are better equipped (again, with a healthy Nene) to run offense out of the post when playoff basketball takes over.

2. Do you miss Jan Vesely yet?

Do I miss the potential of an amazing dunk, a #SlapBound, groaned excitement at the free throw line, or a ‘hilarity ensues’ battle with Tyler Hansbrough?

Of course I do.

Otherwise, Vesely’s entire situation was a frustrating and unsatisfying. I guess he’s Washington’s Rafael Araujo, although perhaps not that bad.

3. The Wizards have won four straight, despite missing Nene for a game and a half in that stretch. What has the team playing so well out of the All-Star break?

John Wall has been the driver and is slowly starting to take it to another level, and he’s slowly building more confidence (especially from the perimeter). The best part: he’s staying within who he is, a point guard. He’s not trying to ‘Carmelo’ his Wizards into the playoffs. Recently, after a win in Cleveland, Wall said this about Kyrie Irving (via WFNY): “We both do things great for our team. He’s probably a better offensive guy, skill-wise, and can basically take over games with his skills. I’m more of a point guard that likes to get his teammates involved and am blessed with the talents and abilities to get hot and able to score the ball.”

Wall has shown an improved grasp of pace all season, now he’s better at balancing when he needs to score and when he needs to create. He’s been pretty bad from the field when the score is close late in games, often opting for hero shots. But his drive and creation for Nene’s game-winning dunk against the Pelicans was a sign of growth.

It hasn’t been just Wall, several key Wizards have stepped up. Bradley Beal has scored consistently (58 points over the four-game winning streak). Marcin Gortat has really upped his effort in the rebounding department and has five straight double-doubles (82 total points and 56 rebounds). And after a bad outing after the break, against the Raptors, Trevor Ariza has hit 13 out of his last 20 3-point attempts, getting back to the groove he was in when he hit 10 3s against the Rockets in the game before the All-Star break.

4. Is John Wall the best, the goddam best, or merely very good?

To Wizards fans, he’s the best. (‘Goddman best’ would probably be at least winning one first round playoffs series like Gilbert Arenas.) And in the Eastern Conference, he’s becoming very, very good (partially default via injuries). The rest of the league? They’ve been put on notice. But nothing ever really counts unless you win in the playoffs. You don’t want to give people a reason to associate you with Steve Francis (five career playoff games) or Stephon Marbury (18 career playoff games and four first round exits until he spent time with the Celtics, making it to the second round (14 total games) his last year in the NBA).

5. The Raptors are 3-0 against Washington this season. Is this a case of “having their number,” or is their something you’ve noticed across the games that the Wizards fan remedy?

Toronto moves the ball very well, better than Wizards perimeter players (namely Wall, Beal and Webster) are simply ready for sometimes. Add the size inside willing to consistently give Washington a pounding, especially off the bench, and there’s certainly a number that’s been had.

But, the Wizards could help their cause a bit more. On the year they average 20.4 3-point attempts per game and 7.8 makes (.382), but against the Raps, it’s 4.7 makes to 14.7 attempts (.320). Washington has also averaged 1.6 more turnovers per game against Toronto than they usually do. Doesn’t sound like much, but these foremost areas have added up to change the dynamic of all three games. Still, Raptor ball movement has been the difference-maker, and I’m not wholly confident that the Wizards can suddenly keep up.

I also answered some questions for Kyle.

1. I mean, what if Chris Bosh does want to come back to Toronto?

HA. That’s not happening, didn’t you know we don’t get the good cable? In all seriousness, if he wanted to come back the franchise would have to consider it, but if it meant a max deal it’s hard to see how it would work. Bosh is a terrific talent and one of the best defensive bigs in the game, but it’s unclear if he’d be able to be the focal point of an offense. A Lowry-DeRozan-Bosh core sharing offensive duties, though? I’ve heard of worse ideas. (But again, not happening.)

2. So word on the street is that Raptors fans are ready to welcome Vince Carter back with open arms, and that they’re going to retire his jersey, and Rob Ford is going to declare every day Vince Carter day. What percentage of this is true?

The Vince situation is complicated, and the fans don’t feel one way or the other as a group. It will happen eventually and some fans will rejoice and others will groan, but it’s probably the right call if and when he apologizes to the fan base, which he’s still never done (I go into this more in that article I linked). By that time, however, Rob Ford will probably be Prime Minister and have no time for declaring city-wide days off.

3. Why not re-sign Kyle Lowry?

Honestly, unless he’s commanding more than a three-year, $27 million deal, I can’t give you a reason. He’s a top-15 point guard, general manager Masai Ujiri has said as much, and that’s about the rate you pay a player like that. He’s always had this talent but he’s finally found a situation that suits him, accentuates his best attributes and reigns in his primary negative, an over-competitive streak (he and Dwane Casey don’t always seem to see eye-to-eye, but you get the feeling there’s a deep respect and understanding there).

4. What percentage has Jonas Valanciunas progressed this season in comparison to the general expectations going in (and why, etc.)? And if you had to compare him to a type of bird, what type of bird would that be?

This is a tough one, because Jonas does a lot of things that make you lose your mind, good and bad. His defense is still a major work in progress and his face-up game is incredibly predictable (that pump fake is so slow). On the other hand, he’s physical and fiery, traits Toronto fans love, works his tail off, reportedly works hard to improve, and has developed some nice post moves.

To put a percentage on it, I’d say he’s probably only 75 percent of the way to where fans expected to see him this year and maybe 60 percent of the way to where they hoped to see him. Luckily, development isn’t a one-year, make-or-break proposition.

As for a bird, I’ll go with a heron, if for no other reason than they’re bad ass.

5. Really, how glad are you that the Raptors didn’t end up with Steve Nash?

The Nash situation sucks so bad, for him and basketball fans in general. You don’t wish that on your least favorite player, let alone one your favorites. In retrospect, it’s obviously good that they didn’t get him, but it didn’t even make sense in the present, either. It was a job-saving move from Bryan Colangelo, one that would have let him tie his value to a marketable Canadian superstar into his next contract.

6. Who is this Landry Fields character that I used to hear about years ago?

He is on Real House Husbands of Toronto.

Breakdown
Vegas says: Raptors -5.5 with 57 percent of the early action. Two-thirds are throwing down on the over at 195.
Hollinger says: Raptors -6
Wale says: Say it again, I ain’t hear you clear, stuntin’ in my rarest pair, I ain’t never scared

Blake says: I mean, we pretty much covered it in those enormous Q&As, right? Raptors by an even 10.

  • Justin Hamilton

    Bosh the best defensive post player in the game???? Is this dude insane or did I miss some sarcasm?

    • Guest

      Nah, but your reading comprehension does need a bit of a boost.

      “one of the best defensive bigs” is what was said. Not THE best, and nothing of being in the post.

    • FLUXLAND

      Umm, you missed “one of” and added “post”… reading is hard, eh?

  • FLUXLAND

    “But nothing ever really counts unless you win in the playoffs”

    Ding f ding.

    Except in TO, where the L is being petitioned by the fans for a separate award – the PRG Trophy (post Rudy Gay).

    • afrocarter

      Your derision is premature, my man. Let’s wait and see how the team does in the playoffs before we start making judgement calls.

      • FLUXLAND

        You do realize the playoffs are a half court game where transcendent talent feasts on non defensive teams,right?

        I don’t think it’s too early to make any calls, seeing this team relies on DeMar DeRozan, All Star, Raptors “transcendent” talent and resident “closer” to win them ball games. You think he’s still getting all those calls and trips to the line, especially on the road, in the playoffs?

        • DDayLewis

          But…the Raptors are a half-court team that prioritizes defense over offense.

          • FLUXLAND

            Hmmmm…in theory or..? I’m not ready to call this a defensive team, as some seem to be inclined.

            • DDayLewis

              7th best by Defensive Rating, 4th best in points allowed per game.

              • FLUXLAND

                lol.. I knew you were coming back with some FACTS.

                Didn’t you and I cross that bridge during your “JV is an elite rebounder and AS in the making” claims?

                But to entertain you…how do you feel about the PIP vs. (13th) and total rebounds #s (17th)?

  • Stephen

    I smell more of a close ugly win than cleanly winning by 10, even with the Wizards shorthanded.

    As for a potential playoff matchup… anyone but Brooklyn. Silver ain’t Stern, but he’ll still do everything in his power to make sure the Nets get through one round.

    • afrocarter

      I’d add Charlotte & Chicago to that “please, God, anybody but them” list.

      • Stephen

        I don’t think either of those are THAT bad – Charlotte has seemed more like really weird play than anything quantifiable, and Chicago you know what you’re getting since they’re playing at playoff intensity right now. If the Raps have another gear, they should take that series.

        • afrocarter

          The optimist in me hopes your right. On the other hand, Charlotte may just have our number; despite their overall record, they match up so well against us (versatile scoring big, near-elite wing defense). And Chicago is just Chicago; I hate to admit it but right now they’re playing like the true 3rd best team in the East. Catch their recent beat-down on the Dubs? *shudder*

          • Bendit

            So true…someone try and put those handcuffs on Noah…or feed Jonas what Joakim is eating (or smoking).

    • jakdripr

      You mean the same way Stern made sure the Nets got through to the second round last year? I don’t see where this mentality comes from, if we lose to the nets(which I really don’t see happening), it’ll be because we’re a young team that played like idiots not because of any game rigging from silver.

      The only thing that would worry me about the match-up is the fact that we haven’t had a clean win against them yet. We lost our first match-up and the other two came on the second night of a back to back against them.

  • database_666

    drew good used to hurt us in the past and i hated how a player like that (comparable to boris diaw) weaseled by far more athletic players on the opposing teams. suggest to consider a combo of patterson or hansbrough to guard gooden, and keep the feet on the ground without biting on a head / shoulder fake pump.

  • ahoang

    john wallllll.
    always excited to see him play. finally coming into his own and really showing why he went #1.
    I hate to admit it, but I think Bosh back in Toronto would be huge.
    I would say 2pat is a poor man’s version of Bosh.
    So yah factoring in the price for what he’s doing it may not be as great.
    We’d have a lower expectation of him as maybe a 2nd/3rd option and he’d thrive. There have been games where LBJ/Wade are struggling and he carries the team. I’m sure you can expect a slumping night from DD/KLow every now and then.
    It all comes down to money though. I wouldn’t take him for more than 10-12 mil a year. And there would need to be in writing that he won’t golden shower himself when we win the championship…

    • DDayLewis

      Wait, why would Bosh accept a #3 role on this team, especially since he’s a much better option than either Lowry or Demar.

  • afrocarter

    FWIW: Drake >>>>> Wale

    • BlakeMurphy

      I just try to use someone different all the time and chose Wale since he’s from DC.

    • Guest

      Drake <<<<<<< Nearly everyone

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