TORONTO – The Wizards will be without Nene and Kevin Seraphin for the second straight game, but that hasn’t changed their focus on extending their winning streak to five games and finally claiming a win against the Toronto Raptors. Toronto is one of just two Eastern Conference teams that the Wizards have yet to defeat this season. The Raptors won three relatively non-competitive games by a combined 31 points.
John Wall scored a season-high 37 points when the teams met at Air Canada Centre on Nov. 22 and Toronto won, 96-88. Since then, Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry has won the head-to-head matchup in the past two games, outscoring Wall, 43-33. Lowry has also had 21 assists, compared to just 13 for Wall.
“We have to go beat Toronto,” Wall said. “They got our number beating us three times and it’s always in that third quarter where we basically let the game get away from us. We know their playing great right now, they are on a big role. We just have to find a way to go out there and play like we’ve been playing on the road and that’s good and beating teams and go out there and see what we can do.”
Seraphin continues to be day-to-day with his sore right knee and Nene is out for about six weeks with a sprained left knee ligament. Drew Gooden will make his Wizards debut but the team could also go small. Coach Randy Wittman got ejected in the Raptors’ 103-93 victory at Verizon Center on Feb. 18 and assistant Don Newman elected to go with a lineup that featured Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster and Nene. That group scored eight straight points to bring the Wizards within six.
“Obviously, that’s something in our pocket that we have, that we can do, but that’s all situational,” Wittman said.
Beal agreed that a smaller lineup could work against a Raptors team that has some athletic big men in Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson. “Might allow us to switch things. Be able to create mismatches on the offensive end. Whatever Witt wants to do.”
When asked why the Wizards have struggled so much against the Raptors, Wittman said, “They’ve played well. I would just say they’ve played better than us. That’s what it’s broken down to. We’ve got to be able to score some easier baskets in transition, in the open floor, we got to shoot the ball better. And spreading the floor. Those things combined, hopefully we can improve on.”
Washington is also seeking its first five-game win streak since closing the 2011-12 campaign on a six-game roll. But the priority is avoiding a sweep.
“We’ve got to beat them,” Beal said. “That’s our biggest goal. And we know that’s a great team. They are playing tremendously this year and the guys have bought in. We’ve got to be ready to go from the jump and definitely starts with me and John and the rest of the guards because they love to put the ball on the floor and they can shoot the ball pretty well as well. We definitely have to have our hard hats on on the defensive end of the floor and make good plays on the other end.”
(TV: Comcast SportsNet Plus. Radio: WFED-1500).
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