Preview: Wizards vs. Raptors, Verizon Center @ 7:00

All-Star Weekend is over, and tonight the NBA resumes regular season play. Wizards fans have much to be happy about, with Bradley Beal faring well in the three point contest, and John Wall being crowned dunker of the night, not to mention Wall’s solid performance in his first All-Star game.

The Raptors enter Verizon Center tonight as the Heat and Pacers’ third wheel — sure they’re third in the Eastern Conference standings but they’re also nine and a half games out of second place. Containing the Raptors’ leading scorer Demar Derozan is going to be a priority for Washington, but I believe it is their point guard Kyle Lowry that will be the difference maker tonight. Lowry was snubbed from the All-Star game, in a season where he’s averaging 16.7 ppg and 7.6 apg. He is going to play with a chip on his shoulder tonight, because his numbers definitely warranted more recognition from the fans. This is his first game to prove everyone why he should have been extended an invitation to New Orleans this past weekend, and I think he takes full advantage of the opportunity.

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What the Wizards need to do tonight in order to be successful is dominate the paint. These two teams are close in the standings, close in the statistics, and similar in build. Both are backcourt heavy, however the Raptors have the fourth-best points allowed average in the league, and the Wizards are 19th in scoring. This will certainly be a grind out game, controlling the boards and getting to both the rim and foul line will be the keys to success. Nene and Marcin Gortat need to come out with their A-game, basketball is won by exploiting weaknesses and the Raptors biggest flaw is their front court depth. Jonas Valanciunas is young and sky high potential, but aside from him the Raptors don’t have much to compete with the balance down low that Nene and Gortat provide.

Throughout Wall’s career, all we have seen is that opportunities like playing in the All Star game only boost his play. The John Wall that Wizards fans have seen this season is the John Wall that the Wizards drafted, and he has been playing with patience, and maturity, all the things you hope the future of your franchise can learn in his first couple years in the league. Now Wall is in his third season, he’s got the contract he thinks he deserves, an All-Star nod on his resume, and his focus is steadfast on improving his game and showing why he thinks he is the best point guard in the league. Whether or not I agree, the best players of all time didn’t get to be the best by thinking other people were better than them, so keep that in mind.

There’s a lot of basketball left to be played this season, and the road to the three seed in the East starts tonight. Tip-off is at 7 PM EST.

Topics: John Wall, Marcin Gortat, Washington Wizards

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