Pre-Game

Gameday: Wizards @ Raptors, Jan. 17

The Toronto Raptors welcome another lovable loser to Scotiabank Arena this evening with the Washington Generals Wizards in town.  Washington arrives with a record of 13-27 on the heels of a 115-106 loss at the hands of the Chicago Bulls.

No one expected the Wizards to be successful this season.  Devoid of much talent and with a season-long injury to John Wall they don’t have a lot to work with.  In fact, based on some preseason projections/expectations the Wizards are currently playing above their expected level.  Vegas set their over/under at 27 wins, a number which they are currently on track to match almost exactly.

The losing though is beginning to take its toll on Bradley Beal, as he showed after their latest loss on Wednesday.

So how did the Wizards get here?  For starters, despite the talent deficit that they bring to the court most evenings they remain one of the more dangerous offensive teams across the league.  Their offensive rating on the season sits at 110.6 at present, good for 9th best in the league.

These offensive number though are inflated by what was a strong start to the seasons.  Over the last 10 games the offensive rating drops to 106.2.  This would rank them 22nd in the league over the same time period, directly between the New York Knicks (106) and the Charlotte Hornets (106.2).

It is the other end of the floor that I’m sure is truly disturbing to Wizards fans and the team itself, as Washington has the league’s worst defensive rating at 115.4.  Simply put, this would be a near historically bad defence if the season were to end today, approaching the 2018-19 Cleveland Cavaliers who set the mark of failure at 117.6.

With how the Wizards are defending this can hopefully be a good opportunity for the Raptors to regain some of the fluidity that they had early in the season prior to injuries.  In fact, the possibility exists that tonight may be the first time since December 8th that the Raptors have had their top 8 rotation players available in the same game as Fred VanVleet prepares to return to the line-up at some point this weekend.

On Dec. 8th Fred left the game against the Philadelphia 76ers after just 12 minutes with a right knee contusion.  Since then the Raptors have missed games from Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, Marc Gasol, and Fred again.  To have a fully healthy rotation will allow Toronto the chance to finally see what the team could be prior to the upcoming trade deadline.

Along with Beal the Raptors will need to pay attention to Davis Bertans, one of the world’s most dangerous three point shooters (non-Matt Thomas division of course).  Bertans is attempting 8.6 shots from three point range a game, making him one of just 14 players in the league to take at least 8 per night.  No one among this high attempt group is hitting them at a higher percentage than him though, as he coolly is shooting 43.4 percent from deep.  (Towns is the next closest at 41.8 percent)

Washington plays at one of the league’s fastest paces and is tied with the Knicks for the most opponent free throw attempts per 100 possessions.  They hemorrhage points at the line, and it’s never a good idea thing when you’re close to the Knicks in any category.

The Raptors have struggled putting away teams as of late, including nearly blowing a 30 point lead to the OKC Thunder on Wednesday.  With Washington’s offensive ceiling Toronto will need to be locked in to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

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