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Raptors' DeRozan has statement game against Wizards


Raptors' DeRozan has statement game against Wizards

Right now, Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan is on the outside of the Eastern Conference All-Star roster looking in. He's sixth in the backcourt voting behind Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, teammate Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler and John Wall. 

But Friday night was a different story entirely. DeRozan shared the court with Lowry and Wall and upstaged them both in the Raptors' 97-88 win over the Wizards.

He finished with a season-high 35 points and 8 rebounds, but did his best work from the free throw line. DeRozan got there a whopping 13 times -- more than the entire Wizards starting rotation combined -- and missed only once. 

In the postgame locker room, DeRozan said it was defense, not offense, that decided the game. 

"We had to key the defense in consistently throughout the second half if we wanted to be successful, and that's what we did," he explained. "We took advantage of that and played aggressive on the offensive end."

The second-half stats bear that out. As the Raptors started getting more stops after halftime, DeRozan got on a roll offensively. He opened the night with 14 points (including 4-4 from the foul line) in the first half, but closed out with an 11-point third and 10-point fourth. 

DeRozan drew contact at a faster clip, too. Eight of his 21 second-half points came from the stripe. 

Toronto coach Dwayne Casey attributed his shooting guard's big night to some early frustration. 

"I think he got frustrated in the first half. They were into him and I think he just made a conscious effort of taking things into his own hands, playing through contact, playing through their physicality." 

That all may be true, but DeRozan has made a habit of big games against Washington this year. Prior to Friday, his season-high scoring was 34 points, also at the Wizards' expense. 

He's averaging 29.7 points in three meetings (all wins) between the teams. 

When asked what about playing Washington elevates his game, DeRozan didn't mince words. 

"We got swept last year," he said. 

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards sputter in another loss to Raptors 97-88: Five takeaways

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 

The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall remains out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.


The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.

The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home-court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.


By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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