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Raptors-Wizards Preview

Nov 28, 2015 - 5:48 AM The Washington Wizards opened the season with high expectations after reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals. Instead, they're struggling through a drama-filled month.

In their first meeting since a first-round playoff sweep, the Wizards hope to avoid their fourth consecutive defeat Saturday night when they host the surging Toronto Raptors.

Bradley Beal averaged 20.8 points, Marcin Gortat added 17.3 points and 10.0 rebounds and John Wall scored 17.3 to go along with 12.5 assists as Washington eased past the Raptors last postseason.

The Wizards then lost to Atlanta in a six-game conference semifinal series after Wall suffered a broken left wrist in the opener. After an offseason in which its star point guard could heal, Washington was projected to be one of the top teams in the conference.

The Wizards, however, haven't played that way as they fell to 6-7 following Friday's 111-78 loss at Boston. They've allowed an average of 96.5 points in wins but a whopping 115.6 in defeats.

Coach Randy Wittman already stirred things up Nov. 10 when he called the team "too soft" following a 125-101 home loss to Oklahoma City that capped its first three-game skid. More recently, Wall reportedly criticized Wittman by saying he shouldn't have been on the bench with Beal early in a six-point fourth quarter that led to Wednesday's 101-87 loss at Charlotte.

Jared Dudley had 19 points and Beal added 16 on Friday, but Wall scored 10 on 4-of-11 shooting and Gortat had four while missing seven of eight from the field. The Wizards shot 32.1 percent and committed 22 turnovers.

''You can't play this game solely based on if you're making or missing shots,'' Wittman said. ''We have energy to start the game, but when we miss shots we lose that.''

Wall has played better at home, scoring 17.2 per game. He's averaged 19.7 points and 11.7 assists in his last six against Toronto, including the playoffs.

Washington had dropped seven of eight regular-season meetings before its postseason sweep.

Two-time defending Atlantic Division champion Toronto similarly scuffled during a 2-6 stretch before turning things around with road wins over both Los Angeles teams. The Raptors (10-6) then pulled off perhaps their best victory Wednesday, 103-99 over visiting Cleveland.

''We're excited about the win, no question,'' coach Dwane Casey said. ''But we can't go over the moon and lose our focus and lose sight of continuing to improve in a lot of areas.''

The Raptors have done that on the defensive end, giving up an average of 90.8 points in their last four games after they had surrendered 103.4 over the previous five.

Kyle Lowry led the way with 27 points Wednesday, DeMar DeRozan scored 20 and Bismack Biyombo had 11 points and 12 rebounds while filling in for injured starter Jonas Valanciunas. The 7-foot center is expected to miss at least six weeks because of a broken left hand.

Lowry has been on a roll with 20 points or more in eight of the past nine games. The All-Star point guard has averaged 20.8 points in his last four trips to Washington, including the playoffs.

The Wizards can't be happy about seeing DeMarre Carroll again. He averaged 16.7 points and made 11 of 27 (40.7 percent) from 3-point range for the Hawks in last season's playoff series.