Wizards badly in need of wins, face Raptors

Mar 24, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) controls the ball as Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes (7) tries to defend during the third quarter at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The season series will be on the line when the Washington Wizards visit the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

The teams split two games in Washington on March 2-4.

The Raptors (36-38) have won the season series from the Wizards (33-41) in each of the past four seasons.

Both teams are coming off home victories. The Raptors completed a four-game season sweep of the Detroit Pistons with a 118-97 win on Friday.

The Wizards defeated the San Antonio Spurs 136-124 with Corey Kispert scoring a career-best 26 points.

“Overall, I thought it was a terrific team effort,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Corey’s career high was a plus, and we got tremendous output from our bench, which was good to see.”

The Wizards will be out to keep their slim hopes alive for a play-in spot.

They are 2 1/2 games behind the Chicago Bulls, who in 10th place occupy the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington trails ninth-place Toronto by three games. The season series between teams is used as a tiebreaker in the standings.

The Wizards were playing their second consecutive game on Friday without both Bradley Beal (knee) and Kyle Kuzma (ankle). Kuzma has missed three overall.

Kispert responded with six 3-pointers on 9-for-14 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot.

“Everything was working but the free throw line,” Kispert said of his 2-of-5 effort at the line.

Backup point guard Delon Wright had a season-best 24 points and added seven rebounds and three assists. Kristaps Porzingis had 23 points and nine rebounds.

With the injuries to two key players, Unseld praised the aggressive play of Kispert and Deni Avdija over the past two games. Avdija had 21 points and 11 rebounds on Friday.

“The pace at which they’re playing.” Unseld said. “Corey, he’s gotten better and better at operating off screens … hitting the flash guy, hitting the big, playing off the big. That’s a development we didn’t see last year. So he’s gotten better and better, and he’s able to add straight-line drives and finishing at the rim. It adds another layer to his game when teams want to heat him up and get him off the 3-point line.”

The Raptors were without Scottie Barnes (wrist), Gary Trent Jr. (elbow) and Precious Achiuwa (hamstring) on Friday for the second straight game. All three are questionable for Sunday’s game.

Pascal Siakam led the scoring with 32 points and Chris Boucher contributed 19 points, 13 rebounds and two blocked shots off the bench.

“(Boucher is) best, we’re best, when he’s just flying around,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “It’s a little wild sometimes (but) it’s fun to watch. He’s blocking shots. He’s trying to dunk everything, he’s hoisting up 3s (even though), he’s totally guarded. All those kinds of things, and he’s just making lots of energy plays.”

With the injuries, Will Barton started for the second consecutive game for Toronto and scored nine points.

“It’s a decision just to try to get (Barton) out there with those guys and get him acclimated, or not,” Nurse said.

Jeff Dowtin Jr. and Malachi Flynn are also options. Dowtin had nine points and Flynn added five points on Friday.

“(Dowtin is) a really good defender, first and foremost,” Nurse said. “He’s really done a solid job, and even (Friday), I switched the rotation because they were running (Jaden) Ivey the whole quarter in the third and he went out there to guard him. That’s the biggest thing.”

–Field Level Media

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