Kuzma scores 30, Wizards beat Raptors to edge closer in East
WASHINGTON (AP) — Kyle Kuzma scored the game’s first 10 points and finished with 30, Kristaps Porzingis added 25 points, and the Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 119-108 on Thursday night in the opener of a two-game set between Eastern Conference playoff contenders.
Daniel Gafford scored 18 points and Delon Wright had a season-high 11 assists for the Wizards (30-32), who moved within percentage points of the ninth-place Raptors (31-33) in the East standings.
The Wizards have won two straight, having rallied past another East playoff contender at Atlanta on Tuesday night, and Kuzma hopes the team can find the consistency that has eluded it thus far.
“That remains to be seen,” he said. “We come in here and we say it every day, when we have a winning streak, that the tides are turning, and they don’t.”
O.G. Anunoby scored 26 points and Jakob Poeltl had 23 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who had won five of their previous six games.
“We’ve got to be all five players dialed in for the whole possession on defense for more possessions of the game,” Poeltl said. “We just let up a little bit too much. Gave up runs to them that we just can’t allow.”
Washington beat Toronto at home in the regular season for the first time since Feb. 1, 2018, ending a six-game winning streak for the Raptors at Capital One Arena.
“We knew this team was going to be extremely aggressive and physical,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “I thought we managed to play through a lot of that throughout the game.”
Kuzma essentially put the game away early in the fourth quarter when he found Corey Kispert for a 3, buried a step-back 3 of his own and drove for a layup to conclude a 12-2 run that made it 99-80. The Raptors made a late push but did not get closer than eight points.
The Wizards had a 59-50 lead at halftime that could have been bigger if not for a couple of lulls. Kuzma made two 3s and had an emphatic dunk during his game-opening burst, but Toronto responded with an 18-2 run. The Wizards went on a 12-2 run for a 50-36 lead in the second quarter; Toronto countered with a 10-0 flurry.
The Wizards had more explosiveness and outside shooting touch throughout, shooting 46.7% from 3-point range to the Raptors’ 27.3% and finishing with 16 fast-break points to the Raptors’ four.
The Wizards also had 30 assists on 43 field goals, including a lob well above the rim from Deni Avdija to Gafford for the second of his two alley-oop dunks in a 30-second span.
“In the locker room, he was asking, ‘Did I throw it too high?’ I was like, ‘No, it was perfect,’” Gafford said. “Just put that in my goodie bag of crazy dunks that I’ve had over my basketball career.”
Pascal Siakam had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Toronto. Scottie Barnes and Fred VanVleet had 14 points apiece, but VanVleet was 2 of 11 on 3-pointers.
“It feels like to me we just lacked some execution tonight in certain portions of the game,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We didn’t execute very well at all at the offensive end.”
Raptors: This is the first of two five-game trips remaining for Toronto, which has only eight home games left. The Raptors are 20-13 at home and 11-20 on the road. ... G Will Barton, waived by the Wizards on Feb. 21 and signed by the Raptors on Tuesday, played seven minutes and didn’t score.
Wizards: Bradley Beal had 15 points. ... Corey Kispert finished with 10 points and two 3-pointers, becoming the first Wizard to make 100 3s in his first two seasons. ... Wright started at point guard in place of Monte Morris (lower back), who had an epidural injection on Wednesday and missed his third straight game. ... Washington signed F/C Jay Huff to a two-way contract. The 7-foot-1 Huff had been playing for the South Bay Lakers of the G League, averaging a league-leading 3.4 blocks per game. Huff was previously with the Wizards in the 2021 Summer League after going undrafted out of Virginia. ... Washington has 13 home games left and only seven on the road, with no trips longer than one game.
The teams conclude their two-game set at Washington on Saturday.
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