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The Wizards will wrap up their three-game road trip before the All-Star break against the Raptors on Wednesday at 7:30 P.M. After splitting the first two games of the road trip, the Wizards will look to finish the pre-All-Star slate strong against the East’s number two team in Toronto. The Wizards have lost all three games so far this season against the Raptors, including a double overtime thriller and a close game at the beginning of the season in D.C. The Raptors have won six of their last seven games, and have only one home loss in the last two months.
Scotiabank Arena | 7:30 P.M. | NBC Sports Washington | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Chasson Randle, G – Bradley Beal, F – Trevor Ariza, F – Jeff Green, C – Thomas Bryant
Raptors: G – Kyle Lowry, G – Danny Green, F – Kawhi Leonard, F – Pascal Siakam, C – Serge Ibaka
Wizards: Dwight Howard (aggravated gluteal soreness – out), John Wall (left Achilles tendon tear – out), Troy Brown Jr. (left ankle sprain – out), Tomas Satoransky (personal – out)
Raptors: Kawhi Leonard (sore knee - questionable), Fred VanVleet (left thumb – out)
Beal, Wizards look to finish strong before Charlotte
Bradley Beal will represent the Wizards in Charlotte this weekend in what will be his second straight All-Star appearance. With career-highs in points (25.1), rebounds (5.1), and assists (5.3), Beal has stepped up with the Wizards going through roster changes and injuries. Since January 1, Beal is seventh in the NBA in scoring at 27.8 PPG. Last time against Toronto on January 13, Beal had 43 points, 10 rebounds, and 15 assists. He willed the Wizards back into the game after being down by 20-plus, but the team fell short in double overtime. To get the win on Wednesday, the Wizards will need another big time performance from Beal, especially with Tomas Satoransky out for personal reasons. Beal will be handling the ball much more than usual, sharing responsibilities with mainly Chasson Randle and Jordan McRae.
Success starts on defense
In the 10 games from January 1 to January 24, the Wizards were fourth in the NBA in defensive efficiency, only giving up 106.3 points per 100 possessions. Washington went 6-4 during that stretch, which included games against the Thunder, Sixers twice, Bucks, Raptors, and Warriors. However, in the 10 games since January 25, the Wizards are 26th in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing 117.3 points per 100 possessions. They may be 4-6 during that span because of their number eight offense, but Washington will only win in Toronto on Wednesday if the defense plays like it did during that January stretch.
Defending the Raptors will be no easy task; Toronto is seventh in offensive efficiency in the NBA. With Marc Gasol now in the fold, the Raptors can beat you in a variety of ways. Kawhi Leonard’s isolation moves, the team’s transition offense, and 3-point shooting are the Raptors’ forte. When Gasol is not in the game, the Raptors typically play small with Serge Ibaka or Pascal Siakam at the ‘5’ position. The Wizards like to play small as well, so this will likely be a face-paced game in the second half.
Last one before the break
It goes without saying that having the All-Star break so close can cause teams to play poorly in the final game before the week off. With the Wizards still pushing for a playoff spot, the team knows how big this win would be. The same focus goes for the Raptors; Toronto is only a game back of the Bucks for the top seed in the East and can’t afford to drop this game at home to a sub-.500 team. Both head coaches will be preaching focus going into this one, and the Wizards will especially need to play together on both ends of the court to get the win. Washington has won the game before the break the past two seasons on the road, in Indiana and in New York.