The Washington Wizards will be out to repeat their opening-night success when they pay a return visit to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
The Wizards opened the season on Oct. 20 with a defensive-minded 98-83 victory over the host Raptors, who got their revenge at Washington with a 109-100 win on Nov. 3.
The early home loss to the Wizards was a sign of things to come for the Raptors. They have struggled to a 3-8 record at home, where they had lost five in a row until defeating the Milwaukee Bucks (minus Giannis Antetokounmpo) 97-93 on Thursday.
“We have a lot of young guys,” said Toronto’s Fred VanVleet, who scored 26 of his 29 points in the second half on Thursday. “When we play a really good team, they tend to fall in line (with the game plan). When you play the quote-unquote questionable teams, it’s every man for himself out there sometimes. That’s part of the inexperience and the youth that you’ve got to roll with.”
The Wizards are coming off a 116-101 home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
“We’ve been down this road before,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “How many times do we have to have the same conversation about our approach, our energy, our composure?
“That’s probably the most frustrating thing; we’ve had the same conversation. And we always bounce back, which is terrific. But how do we sustain that? How do we not fall back into some of those things that we wind up falling into?”
The Wizards are 8-3 at home.
The Raptors were again without OG Anunoby (hip pointer) and Khem Birch (knee) on Thursday, but had Gary Trent Jr. (knee) back and he scored eight points. Anunoby and Birch have been declared out for Sunday’s game.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse reported improvement in Birch, who is dealing with swelling in his knee.
“I think it’s getting better,” Nurse said. “I see him doing more. … He’s not in practice or anything, but I see him in the gym and it seems like he’s working fairly hard so I think it’s improving. Hopefully, he’ll be back soon.”
Anunoby is not progressing as well as hoped. He has missed eight games.
The Wizards were repeatedly hurt by the Cavaliers’ pick and roll Friday. At one point, Cleveland went on a 27-2 run.
“They just wanted it a little bit more than we did,” said Washington’s Bradley Beal, who scored 14 points. “They really just brought it to us and just hit and hit and hit. That run was crazy. We couldn’t sustain it. Couldn’t get stops. We were kind of discombobulated on defense. We weren’t doing anything like we were supposed to on either end of the floor.”
Said Unseld: “We struggled to make shots, and that distracted us from our defensive focus. There’s built-up frustration whether it was you foul, no foul, no call. I’m not sure, but we’ve stopped competing with the composure. That’s what kind of pulled at our fabric, and we started unraveling.”
The Wizards were led by Deni Avdija’s 16 points off the bench.
“We’ve got a lot of guys trying to press the go button right now,” said Spencer Dinwiddie, who scored five points. “So somebody is going to not have the rock.”