The Washington Wizards will try to complete a two-game sweep of the visiting Toronto Raptors on Saturday in a matchup of teams occupying the final two Eastern Conference play-in spots.
The Wizards defeated the Raptors 119-108 in the opener of the two-game set in Washington on Thursday.
The teams are in a virtual tie, with the winner Saturday moving alone into ninth in the conference, leaving the loser in 10th spot.
Washington started fast Thursday with Kyle Kuzma scoring the first 10 points of the game on the way to a 30-point performance.
It was the second win in a row for the Wizards as they strive to find the consistency they have lacked this season.
“That (the consistency) remains to be seen,” Kuzma said. “We come in here and we say it every day, when we have a winning streak, that the tides are turning, and they don’t.”
Kristaps Porzingis added 25 points for the Wizards after missing two games with a sore knee. Daniel Gafford had 18 points and Bradley Beal scored 15.
Former Raptor Delon Wright, starting in place of point guard Monte Morris (back) for the third consecutive game, had seven points, six rebounds and a season-best 11 assists.
“Our disposition on the ball was pretty good,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Obviously, they’re a heavy paint team. They’re going to play downhill as much as they can.”
Wizards reserve guard Corey Kispert scored 10 points and his two 3-pointers made him the first player in franchise history to have 100 3-pointers in his first two seasons.
O.G. Anunoby scored 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead Toronto. Jakob Poeltl had 23 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots.
“We’ve got to compete better,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We need all hands on deck. Everybody who steps on the floor has got to compete.”
His players agreed, some saying all five players on the court at a given time weren’t as “dialed in” as they should be.
“Our energy was at an all-time low from the beginning of the game,” said reserve Chris Boucher, who scored 12 points in 13:27. “Also when we (the bench) came in, you’re supposed to come in and change the energy of the game and I don’t think we did that. You don’t pick and choose your bad days. (Thursday) was a little bit flat for a lot of us. We missed a lot of gimmes, we didn’t follow the game plan. Those are games you want to flush and go to the next one.”
The Wizards waived center Vernon Carey Jr. on Wednesday and filled their second two-way contract spot by signing center Jay Huff.
Huff has ties to the Wizards, having participated on their summer league team in 2021. Huff was assigned to the G League’s Capital City Go-Go on Thursday.
“It’s nice to get a guy that you have some familiarity with,” Unseld said. “He’s another pick-and-pop guy, a smart player. I think he’s an underrated passer — does a pretty good job of using his body.”
–Field Level Media