After coming up just short again and again, the suddenly stingy Washington Wizards knocked off one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference their last time out.
In contrast, they haven’t been able to slow down the Toronto Raptors during their last few visits to the Air Canada Centre.
Looking to post back-to-back victories for just the second time this season, Washington tries to avoid a fifth consecutive road loss to Toronto on Sunday night.
Ranking near the bottom of the league with an average of 99.8 points allowed, the Wizards (12-39) have surrendered just 87.8 per game over their last eight – giving up 97 or fewer each time. Washington hasn’t held opponents to under triple digits in nine straight contests since Nov. 30-Dec. 17, 2002.
Despite their recent defensive prowess, the Wizards entered Friday losers of five in a row – with four of those defeats coming by four points or fewer. Washington, however, finally took advantage of its much-improved play and kicked off the weekend with a 97-76 rout of Philadelphia.
“Maybe this is a game we need to have that ice broken,” said coach Randy Wittman, whose team limited the 76ers to 36.6 percent from the field and outrebounded them 52-38. “That was spectacular by our guys.”
The Wizards now look for their momentum to carry over against the Raptors (17-35), whom they’ve taken two of three from this season – with their only loss coming 106-89 at Toronto on Feb. 3. Washington has allowed an average of 114.5 points in losing four straight north of the border.
In addition to their impressive display on the defensive end of the court, the Wizards received a huge offensive boost Friday from Cartier Martin. Martin made 4 of 7 from 3-point range in scoring a career high-tying 20 points off the bench in his second game after signing a 10-day contract.
“They go over a few things with me before I go onto the floor and let me know what I need to be doing,” he said. “So I have an idea, but at the end of the day, it’s basketball.”
The Raptors, meanwhile, have lost six of eight following Friday’s 113-101 loss to Miami. Toronto clawed its way back from an early 14-point deficit but couldn’t keep up with the Heat down the stretch, getting outscored by 12 over the final 12 minutes.
“If you start out lackadaisical like that and let them have the haymaker, they are going to end it with a haymaker,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We didn’t have the resistance that we needed at the beginning of the game. We must have a better start than that.”
Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan compiled a combined 55 points on 19-of-34 from the field while Jose Calderon scored nine and dished out 16 assists. Calderon had a season-high 17 assists to go along eight points and eight rebounds in the Feb. 3 win.
The Raptors could catch a break Sunday with Wizards big men Trevor Booker and Nene both uncertain to play. Booker exited in the first quarter Friday with a pulled ligament in his left foot before Nene left in the fourth with the same injury.
Nene, who was acquired prior to the trade deadline, had averaged 20.6 points against the Raptors while with Denver since 2008-09 – his highest mark against any opponent.