Two teams heading in opposite directions meet in the nation’s capital Saturday and do not look for much to change when the hot Toronto Raptors visit the cold Washington Wizards.
In a battle between a hot road team and a cold home team Saturday night, do not expect any correction quite yet when those first place Toronto Raptors (10-6, 12-4 ATS) pay a visit to the last place Washington Wizards (6-7, 5-8 ATS) at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC at 7:05 ET in a game available on Comcast SportsNet - Mid-Atlantic.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Toronto as a modest road favorite for this contest with the current line at -2½ with odds of -108.
The Raptors are the two-time defending Atlantic Division Champions, but they were knocked out of the NBA Playoffs in the first round each of those years including getting swept by these Wizards last season. Toronto did something about it by improving its defense with the free agent signing of DeMarre Carroll, and as a result the Raptors are now fifth in the league in points against at 96.6 per game, making them more legitimate contenders to win the East.
On the other hand, the Wizards have been one of the bigger disappointments in the league after returning to the playoffs after a long absence and advancing to the conference semifinals each of the last two seasons. While Toronto is greatly improved defensively, Washington has taken a major step backwards in that regard and the Wizards are now under .500 after being the losing NBA picks in their last three games in a row.
Revenge Time for the Raptors
The Raptors now seem primed for revenge with this being the first meeting between the teams since that first round Washington sweep in the playoffs. Toronto certainly enters in excellent form as not only has it won three straight games, but the last two wins were over the Los Angeles Clippers on the road to wrap up a West Coast trip and then over LeBron James and the defending East Champion Cleveland Cavaliers upon returning home Wednesday.
That aforementioned Toronto defense has held four straight opponents below 100 points, a streak that began with a 93-89 loss at Utah prior to the winning streak, and things are going so good for the Raptors that they have not missed a beat since starting center Jonas Valanciunas fractured his hand three games ago, as Bismack Biyombo has stepped in and averaged 8.5 points and 13.0 rebounds in two starts since then, during which Toronto has a 88-54 edge in the paint.
Dissension in Washington?
Meanwhile, not only have the Wizards lost three straight but dissension also appears to be prevalent in the locker room. After the losing streak began with a 123-106 home loss here at the “Phone Booth” to the Pacers, the Wizards scored a measly six points in the fourth quarter of a 101-87 loss to the Charlotte Hornets, after which point guard John Wall publicly questioned the coaching tactics of Randy Wittman, the coach that returned Washington to the playoffs.
Then the mini two-game road swing may have actually gotten worse with a non-competitive 111-78 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics last night with the Wizards shooting an ungodly 32.1 percent including Wall going 4-for-11 and scoring just 10 points. And we have not even touched on the play of the Washington defense this season, as after being one of the better defenses in the league that last couple of years the Wizards are 27th in points against at 106.8 per game!
Wizards Tend to Stay Bad
Finally, the Wizards have tended to be a team that stays bad for a while once it starts to go bad. To wit, Washington is 9-23-1 ATS in its last 33 games following a straight up loss, 8-26-1 ATS in its last 35 games following an ATS loss and 16-34-2 ATS in its last 52 after allowing 100 points or more in its previous game. Meanwhile, the Raptors are 6-0 ATS in their last six games vs. teams with losing records.
Given what seems to be going on in the Washington locker room right now, look for those patterns to continue with Toronto traveling to DC and coming away with a relatively safe road win on Saturday.
NBA Pick: Raptors -2½ (-108)