Wizards 90, Raptors 84: Three observations

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Sports,Pick and Roll,Craig Stouffer

With their 90-84 win at Air Canada Centre on Monday, the Wizards sort of vindicated the notion that who they are now is a team that’s better on the road than their record (5-22) would indicate. I say “sort of” because that was the epitome of ugly. But it was also a game in which the Wizards never trailed by more than three points. As bad as they looked offensively at times (20 turnovers), they still had 23 assists on 34 field goals and made the Raptors, who shot 36.7 percent, look even worse.

Bradley Beal (20 points, 6 rebounds) was dependable and clutch, as he has been since the All-Star break, and A.J. Price (12 points) gave a nice lift off the bench even though Wizards coach Randy Wittman may have kept him in the game a couple possessions too long in the fourth quarter. Even if John Wall struggled to shoot, going 3-for-11 from the field, he had seven assists and he can still change the tempo of the game in ways that Price can’t.

*While beating Toronto gave the Wizards a rare win over a team with a losing record, the Raptors (23-34) are very much like Washington – they’ve been better than their place in the standings would indicate. They came into Monday having won six out of seven games. They’re also still four games ahead of Wizards (18-37), who have competition for the role of spoiler and unlikely postseason party crasher. The teams still meet twice more this season, and it’ll be curious to see if there’s more at stake each time.

*So, about those standings and the state of the team. The Wizards, who have clinched a winning record in February, are now 12th in the Eastern Conference and have the 26th best record in the NBA overall. At 8.5 games out of eighth place with 27 games remaining, they still need a miracle to challenge for the postseason. What they’ve done already since Jan. 7 is an achievement and proof that they’re headed in the right direction.

But David Aldridge’s NBA.com report that they had a trade in place to bring Caron Butler back to Washington and send Trevor Ariza to the Los Angeles Clippers is a tad disconcerting. While Butler might’ve helped offensively, the Wizards’ current identity is very much in line with Ariza – a hard-nosed defensive player that doesn’t need to care about anything but frustrating opponents and getting wins. Getting rid of him could very well have disrupted that chemistry. While Butler had great success in Washington and still has a home and connections here, the idea that he’d be the same force he was before feels like a reach. There would’ve been plenty of risk that he’d rest easy in familiar confines, and the Wizards really need to keep their edge. Might they also be better served to try and convince Ariza, who has a player option for 2013-14, that he could possibly win sixth man of the year next season if he stuck around?

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