Raptors return home to face dysfunctional Wizards
TORONTO — The Washington Wizards needed that victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday as they try to get their act together.
The task figures to be more difficult for the Wizards (6-11), however, when they face the very-together Toronto Raptors on Friday night at the Scotiabank Arena.
The Raptors (15-4) stumbled briefly last week when they lost three games in a row. They responded by winning three straight on the road, including a 124-108 romp over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night with Kawhi Leonard again being rested on the second half of back-to-back games.
Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry posted his 13th career triple-double and his 11th with the Raptors in Atlanta with 21 points and season bests of 12 rebounds and 17 assists. All other players in franchise history have combined for 12 triple-doubles.
Leonard will be back in the lineup Friday and the time could be coming soon when he plays both games when the Raptors play on consecutive nights.
“I think we’re getting closer,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I will say this, there’s been zero issues as far as any, too much minutes, or too long a run. He feels good, so I think the early plan here through 18, 20 games is going really well.”
Leonard missed most of last season with a quadriceps injury, so the Raptors are being cautious with him this season.
When he does play, Leonard is averaging a career-high 33.4 minutes per game.
Leonard missed the first meeting with the Wizards this season — a 117-113 Raptors win in Washington 117-113 on Oct. 20, the second of back-to-back games. Lowry led Toronto with 28 points and 12 assists in that game.
Miles was expected to return in Atlanta, but instead missed his fifth game in a row. “Nothing happened, it was just a call, the training staff decided to make sure (there were no setbacks),” Miles told the Toronto Sun.
Toronto is 9-0 this season against teams that have a winning percentage below .500.
A victory Friday would give Toronto the franchise record for most wins in the team’s first 20 regular-season games. The Raptors opened 2014-15 by winning 15 of their first 20 games.
Dwight Howard (aggravated gluteal soreness) is being listed as questionable by the Wizards for the game Friday.
He missed the game against the Clippers and was limited to seven minutes in the previous contest.
There is no question about Markieff Morris, however. He will be used off the bench instead of starting for the second game in a row. Kelly Oubre Jr. started instead Tuesday and the Wizards scored a comeback 125-118 victory with Morris making a big contribution off the bench.
“I like the way, obviously, we played, especially in the second half,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “(Morris is) going to get plenty of opportunities. I think he probably played the same amount of minutes that he’s played as a starter. I think he actually took a couple more (shots). … than he did as a starter. So, he’s been a team guy but right now I think it’s going to stay the same.”
“Of course, everyone wants to start, but that’s not the position I’m in,” Morris said. “I’m not the coach, I don’t make the decisions. Just have to go out there and play.”
Morris was 2-for-6 in 3-point attempts Tuesday and made the corner shot that put the Wizards ahead 110-109 with 4:27 to play in a game that they once trailed by 24 points. In 25 minutes, 20 seconds of playing time, Morris had 12 points and five rebounds.
“I thought the key of the game was (Morris) and Tomas (Satoransky),” Brooks said. “If it wasn’t for their games, we probably wouldn’t have won.”
The Wizards finished their homestand at 3-2 and have won four of the past six games.
Will it be enough to settle the turmoil surrounding the team? ESPN has reported that management might be willing to make any player available in a trade.
Then the Washington Post reported about on-court confrontations between John Wall and Jeff Green, and between Bradley Beal and Austin Rivers at a practice last week and that after those incidents Wall swore at Brooks and Beal sounded off to general manager Ernie Grunfeld.