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Mar 23, 2024 7:51 am

Short-handed Raptors vie to stop slide in matchup with Wizards

Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors will look to end their nine-game losing streak on Saturday night when they visit the Washington Wizards.

Toronto (23-47) continued its losing ways on Friday with a 123-103 setback against the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder. The Raptors surrendered a 22-7 run in the fourth quarter that turned a competitive game into a blowout and Toronto’s fourth consecutive double-digit defeat.

A host of Raptors missed Friday’s contest, with 17.7-points-per-game scorer Immanuel Quickley out for a second straight game and RJ Barrett (20.8 ppg with Toronto) sidelined for a fifth consecutive outing — both due to personal reasons.

Scottie Barnes (19.9 ppg) missed a 10th straight game with a broken hand, and Jakob Poeltl (11.1 points, 8.6 rebounds per game) has been sidelined since March 5 due to a finger injury that required surgery.

“In my 26, 27 years of coaching, I never saw anything like it. I don’t think I saw it on other teams either,” Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said Friday, per the Toronto Sun. “A lot of injuries, a lot of situations, personal reasons, missing time, a lot of stuff hit us, but at the same time.”

The Raptors have pieced together makeshift lineups, including rookie Javon Freeman-Liberty starting against Oklahoma City while appearing in just his ninth NBA game. All nine have been this March.

Toronto rookie Gradey Dick, making his seventh consecutive start, scored a team-high 21 points on Friday. It was his highest-scoring outing since he recorded 22 points on Feb. 5 in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Toronto will look to avoid losing a 10th straight game when it faces one of only three teams below it in the Eastern Conference.

Washington (12-58) will play the fourth of four consecutive home games on Saturday and is amid a stretch of 10 of 11 games at home overall. The Wizards recorded a 109-102 win over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday behind 31 points from Kyle Kuzma in his return from a two-game absence due to a shoulder injury.

“Any win is a great win,” Kuzma said. “That’s really the NBA because any team can be beat on any given night. You’ll take a win always. It’s all about playing together and playing hard, playing smart. I feel like that was one of the smarter games we played all year from start to finish.”

Washington lost the two games played without Kuzma by 26 and 23 points, respectively. The Wizards had lost five in a row overall.

Washington’s last eight losses have been by double-digit points.

Despite the team’s struggles, Kuzma said he hopes the final weeks of a trying season will provide positives for the 2024-25 campaign.

“Togetherness and being there for each other. Playing to our strength defensively,” Kuzma said about points of emphasis. “If we can figure out some kind of defensive rotation, that would be a positive.”

Defense has vexed Washington throughout the season. The team’s average yield of 123.9 points per game is the highest in the NBA.

–Field Level Media

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