Game On: Wizards-Raptors preview

Game On: Wizards-Raptors preview
January 2, 2014, 7:00 pm
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Young Wizards still learning how to win

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) celebrates after hitting a three-point shot against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Wizards 96-88.

(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Wizards will try to get back to .500 for the third time this season but they'll be facing a red-hot team in the Raptors, who have won nine of their last 12 games and lead the Atlantic Division. 

TV: Wizards Central pregame show on CSN at 6:30 p.m. ET; followed by tip-off from Verizon Center at 7 and Wizards Postgame Live immediately afterward. Radio: 106.7 FM

Last game: Wizards (14-15) lost to the Dallas Mavericks 87-78 on Wednesday; Raptors (15-15) beat the Indiana Pacers 95-82 on Wednesday. 

Last meeting: The Raptors won 96-88 on Nov. 22 at Air Canada Centre, but they're an even better team since trading F Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings a month ago. 

Projected starting lineups: Wizards –- PG John Wall, SG Bradley Beal, SF Trevor Ariza, PF Trevor Booker, C Marcin Gortat. Raptors –- PG Kyle Lowry, SG DeMar DeRozan, SF Terrence Ross, PF Amir Johnson, C Jonas Valancinuas.

Entry passes: 1). Ross averages less than 10 points because he has come off the bench most of the season, but took Gay's spot as a starter. 2). Washington's three-point shooting in its last four losses at home has been abysmal, 21-for-89 for 23.5 percent. 3). The bench had been effective until Wednesday's loss when it contributed just 16 points, only six total from Nene and Kevin Seraphin in the low post. 4). Wall had a season-high 37 points in the first meeting. 5). The Raptors shot 10 more free throws the last time and ended up plus-7 in that category, an area of emphasis for the Wizards

[RELATED: Wiz lose 3-pt shooting touch]

X-factors: Wall's right eyelid is still bandaged from an elbow he took from Dirk Nowitzki but it won't hinder him. ... Other than Glen Rice (right wrist) and Al Harrington (right knee), both of whom are coming off surgical procedures, no one missed practice Thursday. ... Beal and Nene still are playing with time restrictions. ... PG Greivis Vasquez, who is playing for his fourth team out of the University of Maryland, is Lowry's backup since being traded in the package for Gay, himself a Baltimore native. 

He said it: “They're playing the best they have all year since the trade. Sometimes that has an effect on a team like that when you make a trade. ... At home last night they beat Indiana, and beat them pretty soundly. Not by any kind of stretch of the imagination is tomorrow night going to be some kind of easy game. That's why our intensity and focus has to be the same as it was in the Dallas game and we have to execute a little bit better." -- Wizards coach Randy Wittman  

Around the bend: The Wizards will shoot around Friday morning and likely will practice Saturday before another game Sunday vs. the Golden State Warriors at Verizon Center (CSN, 6 p.m. ET).