The Toronto Raptors came away with a nice victory in Washington Wednesday night, defeating the Wizards 113-103 led by DeMar DeRozan’s 40 points. This would mark the second time DeRozan has scored 40 points this season and his streak continues with 4 straight games of 30+ points. He also managed to knock down his first 3 pointer of the season in the dying minutes. The Raptors’ bench was also very productive, combining for 34 points led by Terrence Ross’ 15 points. For the Wizards, John Wall led the way with 33 points and 11 assists. He appeared to be taking over the game late in the 4th quarter if it weren’t for DeRozan’s stellar performance. Dwane Casey also made an adjustment of putting the young athletic Norman Powell in late in the game to guard John Wall. Otto Porter Jr. finished second in scoring for the Wizards with 23 points and 13 rebounds.
Now the Raptors are back home and ready to host the visiting Miami Heat. This will be the first match-up of the season between the 2 teams who gave fans an exciting 7 game series last playoffs during the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. While the Raptors have nearly an identical core to last season (bringing back 11 players), the Miami Heat are a much different looking team. The stack of talented veterans who carried the team for years is now gone. Raptor fans are probably happy that they do not have to face superstars Dwyane Wade (a man who averaged 20+ points against them in the playoffs) and Chris Bosh (the former Raptor who like many former Raptors enjoys torching the Raptors). The Heat squad are now led by Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside was signed to a lucrative 4 year, $98 million deal this past summer after averaging 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks per game last season. Dragic, who was the topic of trade rumours, has been assured by Head Coach Erik Spoelstra that he will remain with the Heat. The Miami Heat currently have a 2-2 record, with their most recent game ending in an overtime Victory against the Sacramento Kings.
The key match-up tonight will be between centers Jonas Valancuinas and Hassan Whiteside. Both men are off to great starts to begin the season, averaging double figures in both points and rebounds. Unfortunately, both men had missed much of the playoff series due to injuries. Now they are both eager to face one another, showing who is the more dominant big man down low. Each season that goes on, both Whiteside and JV increase their confidence and improve their offensive game. This will be an exciting match-up to keep an eye on the entire night.
Let us outline the keys for the Raptors heading into tonight’s game:
1.) Fast Start
You have the home crowd to feed off of on a Friday night. It is important to get out to a quick start and control the tempo of the game. After all, the Heat no longer have proven superstars capable of taking over games. Getting off to a quick start will particularly be important for tonight’s match-up.
2.) 3 Point Consistency
The Raptors have been a streaky team from beyond the arc these past 2 seasons. On Wednesday night, the Raptors were able to knock down 10 3-pointers on 25 attempts. Yes it’s stating the obvious when you say shoot a high 3 point percentage, you have a better chance at winning. However, it is clear that life is easier for playmakers like Cory Joseph and Kyle Lowry when they have more space. Forwards DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Patterson are still searching for that long-range groove. Luckily for them and the Raptors, the season just started.
3.) 48 Minutes
Despite winning both games, the Raptors gave up double-digit leads to the Denver Nuggets and Washington Wizards in the 4th quarters. No matter the score, you can not fall in to a comfortable mentality. From when the game tips off to the final buzzer, you have put full effort on every possession. This includes staying aware on defence, limiting turnovers with ball movement, and crashing the boards. This will make life a lot easier at the end of games.
The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, live at Air Canada Centre!