The red hot Raptors aim to extend their recent run when the open a three-game trip in Washington against the Wizards tonight at Verizon Center (7 PM ET, TSN, Sportsnet 590 The FAN).
With a 9-3 record since the trade that sent Rudy Gay to Sacramento as the centrepiece of a multi-player deal, the Raptors have had a remarkable turnaround that’s propelled them back atop the Atlantic Division and helped earn head coach Dwane Casey Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honours for December.
It’s been an even better start to January as the Raptors are coming off a massive home win over the Pacers in Toronto on New Year’s Day to get back above the .500 mark for the first time since January of 2010.
That’s familiar territory for the Wizards, who also have overcome a slow start with five wins in their last seven games. But following their 87-78 loss to the visiting Mavs on Wednesday, they missed out on the opportunity to move above .500 this late in the season since finishing the 2007-08 season 43-39, according to NBA.com.
Nonetheless, the Wizards find themselves third in the division with a sub-.500 record and in the Eastern Conference this season that means playoffs. There’s still an eternity of regular season basketball to play, but if the post-season started today, the Raptors and Wizards would face each other in a first-round series.
Washington hasn’t typically been all that kind to the Raptors, they’ve won just 11 of 33 meetings all-time there. But this Raptors team has shown tremendous resiliency in compiling a 9-7 record away from Air Canada Centre and they’ll try for a seventh win in eight road games tonight.
Key Matchup – Kyle Lowry vs. John Wall: It should be a great matchup of two point guards playing at an All-Star level tonight in DC.
Lowry is coming off his third double-double in his last four games, which included a season-high 14 assists in Wednesday’s win over the Pacers. It was Lowry’s 22nd straight game with at least six assists and over his last 15 games, he’s dished out an average of 8.5 assists per game.
Wall has been just as good with at least 20 poins in eight straight games and he’s averaging career highs in points per game (20.2) and assists (8.9). Wall has been even more lethal at Verizon Center — where he’s averaged 22 points, 10.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds and just over two steals per contest.
Wall also dropped a season-high 37 points against the Raptors the last time these two teams met in Toronto on November 22nd.
Key Stat – Share The Rock, Win The Game: The Raptors racked up a season-high 27 assists on Wednesday to just 16 for the Pacers, which has been a pretty good barometer for success this season.
The Raptors are 9-3 when they hit 20 assists or more in a game and when they’ve recorded more assists than their opponent they’ve been even better with a 10-1 mark.
By The Numbers: Raptors @ Wizards
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Last Time They Met: Wizards 88, Raptors 96 – Nov. 22, 2013