Friday, March 7, 2008

Searching for Dignity North of the Border

Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors
Friday, March 7 - 7pm
Air Canada Centre

The last time the Wizards played a game on international soil they suffered a humiliating 39-point defeat at the hands of some guy named Andrea.

All right, so he's European and he happens to be a former No. 1 draft selection, surname
Bargnani. He also happens to be the starting center on the Toronto Raptors, the team directly above them Washington in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.

It was a humbling, 122-83 defeat for the Wizards, who were playing without the services of Caron Butler for the second straight game since his hip flexor flare-up. In a perfect example of its Jekyll & Hyde tendencies in the last month, Washington had knocked off Toronto the night before in D.C., 108-104 in overtime.

Six Raps scored in double-figures, including former Wizard/Terp Juan Dixon - who outscored Antawn Jamison 12-11. Yes, it was
that bad.

It was Washington's worst defeat since a 111-67 loss at New Jersey on Jan. 16, 2002. Heading into tonight's m
atchup, the Wiz have dropped four straight at the Air Canada Centre.

The Numbers Game

Here are a couple of the key statistical differences between the Jan. 29 win at home and the Jan. 30 blowout loss in Toronto.

FG Percentage

In the win: Wiz -
.421, Raps - .425
In the loss: Wiz -
.366, Raps - .566

In the win: Wiz - 57, Raps - 44
In the loss: Wiz -
36, Raps - 38

Three-point shooting
In the win: Wiz - 10-30 (30%), Raps - 10-27 (37%)
In the loss: Wiz -
8-21 (38%), Raps - 13-18 (72%)

Bench Scoring
In the win: Wiz - 20, Raps - 26
In the loss: Wiz -
36, Raps - 56

Key Matchup

Wizards Bench v. Raptors Bench -
Just as Washington has been very up and down of late, so has the bench. Hmmmm, coincidence? And that's not a misprint in the bench scoring category above. The Raptors scrubs actually outscored Washington's starters by nine (56-47). For the Wizards to reverse their recent trend of ineptitude up north, they'll need a strong effort from the young guns off the bench. Nick Young and Oleksiy Pecherov were the lone bright spots in Wednesday's blowout loss to Orlando. Both finished with 15 points on very efficient shooting from the field (Young was 5-for-5 and Pesh was 6-for-8). If they can continue their hot shooting in more limited action (if the game is close they won't be on the floor for 18+ minutes) and Roger Mason and Andray Blatche can contributed in the scoring column, Washington should be right there with Toronto at the end.

That's assuming that
Brendan Haywood (and not his evil sister) comes to play and the Raps don't shoot 70 percent from three-point range.


Yeesh. The only thing more erratic than my predictions this season has been Washington's play in the last three weeks. Let's see...All-Star forward Chris Bosh scored 37 in the Jan. 29 win and just 16 in the loss the following night. So maybe the Wizards should let him go off and hope to contain his supporting cast? Oh wait, he's out with a knee injury, which means the Raps will be missing their top scorer and rebounder.

Even minus the other CB, with Toronto's propensity for the outside shot, DeShawn
Stevenson, AJ and Pesh are going to need to knock down some treys to keep pace. As always, keep an eye on the rebounding totals. I expect a much better night from Haywood following his no-show the other night, but Bargnani is difficult to guard because the seven-footer has a smooth touch on the long jumper.

With no Bosh, I'm going to give the edge to the Wiz here, provided they can take advantage of the gaping hole on the inside. Raso Nesterovic isn't a bad post defender, but he's a serious drop-off from Bosh. Also, I'd be shocked if Eddie Jordan's troops don't come out looking to prove their last meeting (and Wednesday's equally forgettable effort) was a fluke.

All photos AP/Getty by way of Yahoo!

-- The Tar Heel

1 comment:

DMG said...

Damn Matt, you da man, you even make me kind of care about the Wizards.