Wizards face tough task vs. Raptors without Wall
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WASHINGTON -- Suggesting no John Wall is no problem for the Wizards isn't right, but Washington has won back-to-back games since losing their All-Star point guard to a lingering knee injury. Extending the streak against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday is the next challenge.
The Wizards (28-22) ended Oklahoma City's eight-game winning streak Tuesday night with a 102-96 victory thanks to a strong defensive effort against Thunder star Russell Westbrook and impressive ball movement.
Westbrook scored 46 points in the first head-to-head meeting with Washington last week, Wall's final game before he was shutdown. The five-time All-Star will miss 6-to-8 weeks following an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee Wednesday.
In the rematch, Washington held Westbrook to 13 points on 5 of 18 shooting. Offensively, the Wizards only hit 38.2 percent of their shot attempts but had 27 assists on 34 field goals. This sharing-is-caring approach came after 40 assists on 49 field goals in Saturday's 25-point rout at Atlanta.
"Our spirit. I think our spirit won the game," coach Scott Brooks said following Tuesday's win. "We fought, we battled, we clawed. We didn't complain. We just played. How many times can you shoot 38 percent and have 27 assists? That means the ball was moving around and shot distribution was great."
Toronto (34-15) also enters the third meeting with Washington riding a two-game win streak following Tuesday's 109-104 victory against Minnesota. The Raptors and Wizards split two prior meetings, both in Toronto.
Otto Porter had 25 points against the Thunder, the forward's highest-scoring performance in 2018. Bradley Beal, Washington's other All-Star, finished with 21 points and nine assists.
Yet it was the performance of Wall's replacement, Tomas Satoransky perhaps who shined brightest despite missing all four of his shot attempts. The 6-foot-7 guard used his length to help stifle Westbrook while keeping the offense moving on the other end.
"It speaks volumes for our team," Beal said of the group effort. "You know, you never want to see anybody get injured, especially a guy like John, Things do happen. It's always next man up. Everybody contributed to the win tonight -- everybody. Our point guards ... did a great job running the show. We did a great job of guarding defensively, getting stops when we needed to and we closed it out."
The Wizards are 7-6 this season without Wall, including a 107-96 victory on Nov. 5 in Toronto. Wall is second in the NBA in assists and Washington's second-leading scorer.
DeMar DeRozan scored 19 of his 23 points after halftime against Minnesota including eight in the fourth quarter. With the Raptors clinging to a two-point lead inside the final minute, DeRozan hit a soft floater off a deft feed from backup point guard Fred VanVleet
"Exactly what we want," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said according to the Toronto Star. "Just keep moving, a little bit longer, a little bit longer, a little bit longer, let the ball find who it's going to find. I tell the guys all the time, if you execute and move and execute your play, the ball will find the right person. And it did."
Toronto needed a second-half surge after the Timberwolves shot 59 percent for a 57-51 halftime lead.
"We were soft as tissue," Casey said.
The Raptors and Wizards both are strong putting up points, ranking among the top 10 scoring offenses on the season. DeRozan averaged 29.5 points in two games against the Wizards this season.
Updated February 1, 2018