Following a 127-119 loss on Wednesday to the surging Orlando Magic, the Washington Wizards returned Thursday looking to right the ship.
Jordan Poole and company welcomed Scottie Barnes and the Toronto Raptors to town for their second meeting of the year. If you recall, Washington blew a 21-point lead in Toronto the last time these teams faced off — a meltdown of epic proportions.
Kyle Kuzma was a game-time decision for this one, but decided to gut it out and play. He looked to be favoring his left quad a ton Thursday night, but remained aggressive.
In this matchup, the Wizards lost to the Raptors, 132-102.
For the second-straight game, the Wizards began the contest with the ball and executed coach Unseld’s play to perfection. Jordan Poole received a backscreen that created a clear shooting lane, enabling the SG to knock down the first points of the game.
Offense reigned supreme early on, especially for Washington. Toronto offered little resistance as the Wizards scored on seven of their first nine possessions en route to a 17-12 start. Poole led the way with seven early points.
Deni Avdija also got off to a nice start, hitting his first two field goal attempts. The fourth-year forward contributed defensively as well, picking Scottie Barnes’ pocket and drawing an offensive foul on back-to-back possessions. After a struggle-filled 1-7 shooting night in Wednesday’s loss, Avdija’s hot start was greatly needed.
Washington led by as many as eight, but an 15-1 Toronto to end the quarter had the Wizards trailing, 31-25. The bench unit came in and the offense fell apart. Danilo Gallinari had some quality looks, but couldn’t sink anything. Gallinari has struggled as of late and seems to be moving quite gingerly, as if he has some sort of injury.
Toronto upped the defense and grew their lead to 10 before Jordan Poole brought the Wizards back with some impressive point guard play. Poole found Shamet for a three and Avdija assisted a Shamet dunk to cap a 10-2 Wizards run, bringing them to within two. Wes Unseld Jr. has experimented with staggering Poole’s minutes with Jones’ minutes, allowing Poole to run more PG, and it has worked quite well.
Again, Toronto responded with a run of their own, entering the break in front of Washington, 59-50.
Coming out of half, you’d expect the Wizards to clean up the turnover issues. Spoiler: They did not. Three turnovers in three minutes allowed Toronto to run in transition and grow their lead to 17.
Washington’s perimeter defense, which ranked 20th entering tonight’s game, was nonexistent once again. Toronto got open look after open look and made their opponent pay.
Corey Kispert and Bilal Coulibaly sunk a pair of threes to keep things relatively close, but Toronto remained in firm control entering the final frame, ahead of Washington 97-81.
Anthony Gill was inserted into the lineup to begin the fourth quarter, good for his typical two-minute stint every five or so games. Gill was quickly pulled after Toronto used its height advantage, feeding Jakob Poeltl in the post and letting him work.
Three minutes into the final quarter, Toronto had grown its lead to 22, sending fans home early.
Washington created a few runs to lessen the gap, but the damage had already been done in the form of 17 turnovers and lackluster perimeter defense.
The Wizards fell to the Raptors, 132-102.