Winless Wizards look to slow down DeRozan, Raptors
WASHINGTON — If the Washington Wizards are going to win their first game of the season, avoiding another late collapse would be a good step.
Also on the to-do list? Trying to slow down Toronto Raptors scoring star DeMar DeRozan when the Eastern Conference foes meet in Washington on Wednesday night.
The Wizards opened the season with back-to-back losses, including Sunday's 112-103 overtime setback at the Memphis Grizzlies after leading 96-88 with under four minutes remaining. Grizzlies center Marc Gasol's 3-pointer with 15.7 seconds remaining tied the game at 100 and Washington faded as Memphis opened the extra session with 12-0 run.
“We let it slip out of our hands. We didn't play a great game,” guard Bradley Beal said after Washington fell to 0-2 in Memphis. “I think we've just got to figure out a way to close out games. We had a chance to win. In overtime the first couple minutes are crucial and once you've got that momentum, it's pretty much a gut check. They got a big lead on us and we couldn't score and they won.”
Washington fell at Atlanta on Thursday 114-99 after the Hawks outscored the Wizards 33-19 in the fourth quarter.
DeRozan hasn't trouble scoring in Toronto's first three games, including depositing 33 points in Monday's 105-102 home win over the Denver Nuggets. Signed to a five-year, $139 million contract this summer, DeRozan became the first player in Raptors' history to open the season with at least 30 points in each of the first three games.
Point guard Kyle Lowry added 29 points and put Toronto (2-1) in the lead for good with his first of two field goals over the final 96 seconds.
“DeMar's been great. His offensive (game) right now is unreal,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told the Toronto Star. “Kyle stepped up (Monday) and gave him a little boost.
DeRozan is averaging 36.0 points while shooting 52.7 percent from the field.
“We've got to maintain that and not wear that out, but he's been doing a great job,” Casey said of DeRozan.
That's not something many are saying about the Wizards' perimeter defense. Washington is allowing opponents to shoot a league-high 47.4 percent from beyond the arc. Memphis sank 15 of 31 3-pointers.
“We have to guard the 3-point line,” first-year Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “That's what the league is about. You have to be able to do two things. You have to guard the 3-point line and protect the paint. The good teams do that every night.
“We are building to be a good team and we have to be able to do that. I have a lot of confidence in our guys to do that but it's just going to take some time but nobody waits for you. We have to expedite that as soon as we can, but we have to be able to guard the line and the paint. “
DeRozan averaged 26.5 points against the Wizards as the Raptors swept the 2015-16 season series 4-0. Washington knocked Toronto out of the 2015 playoffs in four games.
Three-time All-Star John Wall, who had two knee surgeries this offseason, leads the Wizards in scoring (17.0) and assists (11.5), but is averaging 5.0 turnovers per game.