Soon after the Wizards lost John Wall for the rest of the season and Markieff Morris for the foreseeable future, two injuries that came on top of the months-long absence of Dwight Howard, they embarked on what will likely go down as the most difficult part of the schedule. In a six-game stretch, they have taken on some of the best teams in the NBA while missing several key players.
The Wizards, to their credit, have fared surprisingly well. With one game to go before their schedule is set to lighten up, they have won five of their last seven games including wins over the Thunder, Sixers and Bucks. This tough road closes out with a Sunday matinee against the Toronto Raptors set for 1 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.
The Raptors come to Washington with the best record in the NBA. They are 31-12 and that includes an NBA-best 14-8 mark on the road.
They might be the deepest team in basketball, and they have given the Wizards fits through two meetings so far this season. The Raptors won both of those games by an average of 11 points. In the first match-up, on Oct. 20, they won in Washington without Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard, of course, makes a difference. He's putting up MVP-caliber numbers in the best statistical season of his career. Leonard is averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals while shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from three.
The Wizards know they will have their hands full with him. In his one game against the Wizards this season, Leonard went off for 27 points and 10 rebounds in only 30 minutes of work.
"He's probably the best two-way player we've seen in a long time," head coach Scott Brooks said.
Leonard, who is 7-1 against the Wizards in his career, is one of the most difficult players to game plan against, according to Brooks. He's one of the smartest players in the league.
"He's a very calculated player," Brooks said. "He's never rattled. He doesn't ever seem to be out of his comfort zone. He knows what he's doing. He has a game plan within their game plan and he executes it. He's never out of control."
The Wizards have had trouble with Leonard over the years and this season, but things could be a little different now that they have Trevor Ariza, whom they traded for in December. Ariza stepped right in as arguably their best perimeter defender. It would seem likely he sees some time on Leonard.
Ariza and Leonard have played 18 times in their careers, and Ariza knows his game well.
"He's relentless at attacking the basket," Ariza said. "Defensively, he's obviously very aggressive so you have to be careful with where you place the ball."
If the Wizards can somehow pull off a win against the Raptors, they will be feeling pretty good about themselves with a trip to to London to play the Knicks up next.
MORE WIZARDS NEWS:
- Sato Shower: Wizards celebrate Tomas' triple-double like it's their own
- ASG Voting Update: Beal's got some work to do
- Where's the Respect? Beal ranks among the NBA's best guards