WASHINGTON -- The Wizards secured a big win over the Raptors on Thursday night and in doing so moved into a tie with Toronto for the ninth-best record in the East. The Raptors, though, will have a chance to respond quite soon, as the two teams stay put in Washington for a second game on Saturday night.
It's a recently added quirk to the NBA schedule, where teams more frequently play two-game mini-series against the same opponent. It's almost like Major League Baseball, where teams remain in the same city for multiple matchups, even with a day off in between games.
This scheduling method was used quite a bit during the 2020-21 season as the league restructured everything to play games during COVID. But now the NBA is continuing to employ the practice in part to remove a few flights from the calendar.
"I wish the league played like that the entire season," Kyle Kuzma said. "I think from a rest standpoint, it's probably the best thing... body and fatigure, that's the best thing for you. When you can stay put for a couple of days and you don't have to fly and get more inflammation."
The reduction of travel was a big takeaway from Wizards players who were asked. They have had two of these series on the road this season; in Milwaukee and Miami. Instead of having to fly twice to play the Bucks and Heat, they knocked out two games on those trips.
Toronto is now getting that advantage as they stick around in D.C. for a few more days. They get to settle in just as they would in the postseason.
"It feels more like a playoff series," Unseld Jr. said.
Beyond the travel, Wizards players see advantages in playing teams back-to-back from a competitive standpoint. In this particular series, the Wizards get two shots to play against a team they are jockeying with for playoff position. It represents an opportunity to create some ground with wins that count more than they would against teams without the same type of stakes.
The Wizards will have a similar situation next week when the Hawks come to Washington for two games. Atlanta currently holds the eighth seed in the East.
As Kuzma explained, these games can provide valuable experience.
"It prepares you for mini playoff-types of series, whether you're a veteran team or a young team, you need those types of games where you can play the same team twice and really test yourself," he said.
The Wizards expect to be tested on Saturday in the rematch with Toronto. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has a reputation for shrewd defensive schemes, which Bradley Beal has spoken often about over the years. He comes up with creative ways to make things difficult for Beal in particular.
Though they will face the same team and the same players, the Wizards expect a different dynamic next time they take the court.
"We have to know they're going to make adjustments," Unseld Jr. said. "They're going to ramp it up, probably be more physical, maybe throw a little more schematically at us. Whether that's zone or blitzing Brad, they're going to try to make him get off of [the ball]."