Regular Season Game 59
Raptors (32-28) at Wizards (33-25)
Of all the contending teams in the Eastern Conference, Toronto is probably the most interesting. After all the changes Bryan Colangelo made in the offseason, few knew what to expect with this team, but after a bit of a rough start, they've emerged as one of the top up and coming teams in the league.
Interestingly enough, the improvement has more to do with the development of their youngsters than the moves made by Colangelo. Chris Bosh has become even better when healthy this season, and Andrea Bargnani, Anthony Parker, and Jorge Garbajosa have been key parts for this team. But the major reason Toronto is better, in my mind, has to do with Jose Calderon.
Considering all his improvements, it's hard not to give the most improved player to Kevin Martin at this point, but Calderon should at least be in the discussion. His PER has jumped all the way up to 19.91, eighth in the league among point guards and ahead of guys like Deron Williams, Mo Williams, and Leandro Barbosa. He's increased his points/40 from 9.4 to 16.9, and he's increased his assists/40 to 9.5. His true shooting percentage is up nearly 10 points from last year, and his turnover rate has dropped below 10 percent. Too often, the most improved player goes to someone simply getting more time, but Calderon is probably a case of someone getting too few minutes. He's truly a handful for the Wizards, and he's had a fantastic game each time they've played.
The other worry, of course, is Bosh, who hasn't been a huge scoring demon in the two prior games, but has been outstanding on the glass. After struggling so badly against Golden State on the boards, the Wizards will need to do everything they can to corral Bosh's rebounding.
The other key, of course, is getting out on Toronto's perimeter shooting. The Raptors are eighth in the league in three-point shooting, and their offensive style is based off a drive-and-kick philosophy. The Wizards struggle to defend such offenses, and are third-worst in the league at defending the three. That's going to have to be better tonight.
The good news is that the Raptors still are a very poor road team, and the Wizards are a very good home team, these last couple close games notwithstanding. Also, Brendan Haywood will be back, and the Wizards are a significantly better team when he's on the floor.
Your lines for tonight:
Raptors at Wizards: Wizards by 4.5.
Over/Under on Big 3: 69.1 points.
This is an open game thread, so any love letters to current Raptor Juan Dixon go here.