Coming into the 2013-14 NBA season, the battle for the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division was expected to take place entirely inside the state of New York. However, with the unexpected struggles of both the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks, the current class of the division resides north of the border.
Winners of four consecutive games and nine of their last 12, the Toronto Raptors are playing as well as any team in the league. Surprisingly, the team began the hot streak immediately after shipping Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings. The likes of big man Jonas Valanciunas, forward Amir Johnson and the immensely athletic DeMar Derozan have really stepped up for head coach Dwane Casey. But it has been eighth-year point guard Kyle Lowry leading the charge.
In his second campaign with the Raptors, Lowry is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Averaging 15.6 points, 7.4 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest this season, the type of across-the-board production that the 27-year-old is bringing to the table is fun to watch and has made the team competitive on a level not seen since Chris Bosh bolted for the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010.
On Friday night, the Washington Wizards will try to at least slow Lowry down. Virtually all of the Raptors’ recent opponents have struggled through that endeavor, so it will almost certainly not be an easy task. Lowry has put up 18.3 points, 10.5 assists and 2.5 treys during the current four-game winning streak. The Wizards will definitely need to conjure up some magic on the defensive end in order to claim a victory in this one.