The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Wizards’ faint playoff hopes take another hit with loss to Raptors

Toronto 114, Washington 104

Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes drives to the net against Wizards forward Corey Kispert during the second half Sunday. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP)
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TORONTO — The Wizards’ margin for error was slimmer than slim Sunday against the hungry Raptors, with star guard Bradley Beal (knee soreness), forward Kyle Kuzma (ankle sprain) and point guard Monte Morris (groin soreness) planted on the bench. Washington couldn’t let Toronto get comfortable, let OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet get hot.

But the Wizards gave up 37 points in the first quarter and, despite some opportunistic offense that made it a one-possession game at the start of the fourth quarter, never led. They lost, 114-104.

Kristaps Porzingis led the team with 26 points, including four three-pointers, and had six rebounds. Deni Avdija had a slow start but worked his way up to 15 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, the latest entry in a solid string of games for the third-year forward.

Corey Kispert added 19 points, including five three-pointers.

“I thought we just came out and played with a sense of urgency in the third, which maybe caught them off guard a bit,” Wizards Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “I thought [there were] a lot of good things, honestly. It is what it is with a couple guys out, but for the most part, pretty good ball movement, which I think helped us.”

Washington needed more than a few shining stretches on offense to overcome the Raptors (37-38), who are fighting for positioning in next month’s play-in tournament. The defeat ensures the Wizards (33-42) will finish with a losing record for a fifth straight season.

Toronto attacked from the perimeter early and racked up six three-pointers in the first quarter over Washington’s step-too-slow defense. The Wizards trailed by 18 points early in the second quarter and 21 with just more than a minute left before halftime.

The Wizards tapped an energy reserve and stayed alert enough to capitalize on a slight dip from Toronto that straddled halftime.

The Wizards started swishing three-pointers — six of them in less than five minutes, including two each from Porzingis and Kispert. They made eight total in the third quarter to make it a three-point game heading into the final frame, but turnovers and sharp offensive rebounding put Toronto back on top in no time.

The Raptors outscored Washington 27-11 on second-chance points and scored 25 points off 18 Wizards turnovers.

“Those guys right now are a level higher. Us without our main guys, it’s different,” Porzingis said. “Difficult task.”

Anunoby led the Raptors with 29 points on 11-for-21 shooting. VanVleet had 28 points and seven assists.

Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ loss:

Kuzma, Beal sit again

Unseld said he was hopeful both Kuzma and Beal would play again this season, but time isn’t on Washington’s side. Just seven games remain, and Kuzma’s right ankle, which he sprained March 18, was still swollen to the size of a large tomato Sunday. Kuzma will need a ramp-up period before he plays again.

Beal missed his third straight game. There is a strong argument to be made the Wizards should sit their stars for the remainder of the season for the sake of their draft lottery odds.

But if there were a reason for Beal to return this season, it’s that he is 160 points away from Elvin Hayes’s record as Washington’s all-time scoring leader.

Davis hits career high

Unseld made it clear in his evaluation of Johnny Davis’s recently increased minutes that he isn’t placing too much importance on the rookie’s scoring. But the 21-year-old made Unseld take note Sunday when he scored a career-high 15 points off the bench and shot 3 for 4 from long range, hitting his first three-pointers since his lone make in a Feb. 14 win in Portland.

“I feel like I just needed to see one go down,” Davis said. “It’s been a while since I hit a three. So once I saw that first one go, it just built up my confidence to be able to take and make open shots.”

Unseld said confidence remains Davis’s biggest area of growth from the beginning of the year.

“The game has slowed down; I don’t know if he gets enough recognition defensively. He plays well with physicality for a guard. He doesn’t have a lot of size, but he’s going to blow through actions, is going to stay connected, has gotten better with his technique, which allows him to impact plays,” Unseld said. “Just a level of confidence you see, he’s not shy about it. When the ball finds him, he stays aggressive. … I think that’s growth for a guy compared to what we saw earlier.”