The Washington Wizards try to stay atop the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division when they take on the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. The opening tip for this contest is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Washington has lost two of its last three, including a 116-101 home setback to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night. The Wizards are 14-9 and lead the Southeast Division by a half-game over the second-place Miami Heat and by 1½ games over the third-place Charlotte Hornets.
The Raptors are coming off a 97-93 home win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night, snapping a three-game losing streak. Toronto is 10-13 and in last place in the Atlantic Division, one game behind the fourth-place New York Knicks and two games behind the third-place Philadelphia 76ers.
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The Wizards were basically a two-man show in 2020-21, with Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook taking a majority of the shots, but this Washington squad has more depth and balance. Beal is still the team leader in scoring, averaging 22.3 points and 20 shots per game, but there are four other double-figure scorers for Washington.
Beal also leads the team in assists with 5.9 per game, and he’s averaging 5.0 rebounds and 1.0 steals. Beal’s numbers from beyond the arc have been down, however, as he’s connecting on just 26.2% of his 3-point attempts this season.
Center Montrezl Harrell has been solid off the bench in his first season with the Wizards, averaging 16.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest. The former Sixth Man of the Year has started just three times in 23 games but is the team’s top low-post threat.
Forward Kyle Kuzma also came to the Wizards in the offseason in the trade that sent Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers. Kuzma has been the team’s most consistent board man, averaging 8.7 rebounds to go with 13.0 points per game.
Home Sweet Home?
The Raptors defeated the Bucks — albeit without Giannis Antetokounmpo playing — on Friday for just their third win in 11 games at home this season. One of those home losses was to the Wizards in the season opener for both teams, though Toronto returned the favor to Washington two weeks later.
Injuries have been a problem for the Raptors early in the season, with forward Pascal Siakam missing the first 11 games of the campaign and forward OG Anunoby playing in just 15 contests so far.
One constant has been the play of guard Fred VanVleet, who is leading the Raptors in scoring (20.3 points) and assists (6.2). VanVleet is also averaging 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game and is coming off a 29-point performance in the win over the Bucks. VanVleet had just three points in the first half but turned it on after the break, including scoring 13 in the fourth quarter.
“I just reset at half and just made sure I’d be aggressive,” VanVleet said after Friday’s win. “I knew that we probably couldn’t win without me being aggressive.”
Anunoby is out for this game, which means VanVleet and Siakam need to power the Raptors’ offense. Siakam has scored at least 17 points in seven straight games and is averaging 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest.
Rookie Scottie Barnes has also been a solid contributor, averaging 15.3 points, a team-high 8.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He’s able to handle the ball and take some of those duties off VanVleet’s plate so that he can be more of a scorer at times.
Wizards Get Road Win
Toronto will be without its second-leading scorer in Anunoby as well as an important interior presence in center Khem Birch in this one. Washington’s depth should be the deciding factor in this one, as the Wizards make it two straight in Toronto this season.
When making your NBA picks, take the Wizards to win on the road.