Lately, the Washington Wizards bear little resemblance to the squad that got off to an abysmal 4-28 start. While it may be too late to play for anything meaningful, the Wizards haven't let that deter them from playing their best basketball.
On the other hand, the Toronto Raptors' struggles keep escalating.
Toronto will host the Wizards on Wednesday night, three days after losing 109-92 in Washington.
The Wizards (28-46) followed that victory with a 90-86 win over Chicago on Tuesday. It was their eighth victory in 12 games, a span in which they're averaging 100.3 points while shooting 42.3 percent from 3-point range. They're at 93.1 points per game and 36.5 percent from beyond the arc for the season.
With a goal of surpassing Philadelphia for ninth place in the Eastern Conference, Washington trails the 76ers by 2 1/2 games. Extremely unlikely chances of making the playoffs also remain as 7 1/2 games separate the Wizards from Milwaukee for eighth.
"We want to, but we know we probably gave, like, eight games away since I've been back," John Wall said of reaching the postseason. Washington is 23-18 since Wall made his season debut after being sidelined with a stress fracture in his right knee.
"If we had won those games, we would be right there (in the playoff picture)," he said. "We're still fighting - we're not going to give up on the season - but that's a very long shot."
Wall playing possibly the best basketball of his three-year career has been a big reason for the Wizards' recent success, averaging 24.8 points and 9.0 assists over the last 13 games. He finished with 27 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three blocks Tuesday.
The Raptors (27-47) were officially eliminated from the playoff chase with Monday's 108-98 home loss to Detroit despite a season-high 34 points from Rudy Gay. Toronto has lost seven of eight.
"It hurts," coach Dwane Casey said. "Our goal was to knock on the door and get into the playoffs. A couple of weeks ago we saw that light but it faded when we could not take care of games against Washington, Cleveland and Milwaukee."
The first of those defeats - 90-84 at home to the Wizards on Feb. 25 - began the Raptors' current 4-14 slump.
Toronto has been devastated by poor 3-point shooting lately, hitting 26.9 percent over the last eight games.
Landry Fields is listed as day-to-day for Wednesday after missing Monday's game because of elbow pain.
While the Wizards are as healthy as they've been all season - Nene returned Tuesday for 10 points and seven rebounds after missing four games with a sore knee - there is still some concern with Bradley Beal.
Beal scored 24 in Sunday's win over the Raptors - his first game after missing five straight with a sprained left ankle - but followed with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting Tuesday. He said he still felt some pain.
"It was bothering me. It was hurting when I was warming up," said Beal, averaging 23.0 points on 53.3 percent shooting in three games against Toronto this season.
Washington has a 2-1 lead in the season series despite Toronto's DeMar DeRozan averaging 21.3 points. Gay totaled 18 points on 5-of-21 shooting in the Raptors' two losses.
The Associated Press News Service
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