The Toronto Raptors hope their second half of the season starts the way the first half ended and will pay a visit to the Washington Wizards Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.
The Raptors headed to the All-Star break with four straight victories in tow and handed the favored New York Knicks a 92-88 defeat last Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Alan Anderson scored 26 points in a reserve role and DeMar DeRozan added 20 points for the Raptors, who prevailed despite Rudy Gay scoring just 11 points on 4-of-21 shooting.
"We're still not a finished product, we're a work in progress," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. "We're still grinding, and we have to continue to do that."
Gay had scored 20 or more points in five of his first six games with Toronto. In five career games at the Verizon Center, Gay is averaging 14.4 ppg. He is averaging 20.7 ppg in seven games with the Raptors.
The Raptors are riding a four-game winning streak, one short of a season high set from Dec. 14-21. They are 7-19 away from Air Canada Centre and will return home for three straight games following Tuesday's tilt in D.C.
DeRozan is posting 18.6 ppg this month, posting 19-plus points in five of seven games. In other team news, Raptors rookie forward Terrence Ross won the 2013 Slam Dunk during All-Star Saturday Night, unseating defending champion Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz.
Toronto needs one win to pass its season total for victories from 2010-11 (22 wins) and sits two shy from matching last year's total of 23 during a compressed campaign (66 games).
Washington will try to get back in gear when it opens a three-game homestand Tuesday. It will play six of the next seven games in the nation's capital and has won three in a row there.
The Wizards had a four-game winning streak cut short before breaking for the All-Star game and suffered a 96-85 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Pistons last Wednesday. Emeka Okafor tallied 20 points and nine rebounds, while John Wall chipped in 16 points and nine assists.
Nene, rookie Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza also scored 10 points in the loss.
"We just didn't do the things we've been doing in the last few games," Ariza said.
Ariza may have been referring to the 3-point shooting (3-of-11) and rebounding struggles (48-32). Detroit also had a 31-17 advantage in the fourth quarter.
Washington, though, has held its last 10 opponents under 100 points and is averaging 100.7 ppg in the last 11 at home (8-3). Wall is averaging 15.6 points, 8.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds in his last seven games, and posted averages of 16.8 points, 7.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds in four games against the Raptors a season ago.
Tuesday's meeting between the Raptors and Wizards is the first of four. The Wizards and Raptors will meet again on February 25th in Toronto, March 31st in Washington and April 3rd north of the border. Both teams split four contests a season ago.