The Washington Wizards own the Eastern Conference’s best record thanks in large part to the consistency of their starting five. For the first time this season, one of those regulars won’t be in the lineup as the Wizards visit the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
Guards Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson, along with forwards Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, have started every game for Washington (27-17) this season while center Brendon Haywood has started 22 of the last 23. Jamison will miss his first contest of the season Wednesday, though, after spraining his left knee in a 104-99 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.
The Wizards’ third-leading scorer collided with Stevenson under the basket with 6:29 remaining in the first quarter and didn’t return after hurting the same knee he hyperextended against Boston on Jan. 20.
Jamison won’t travel to Toronto and will have an MRI on Thursday, according to coach Eddie Jordan. Jamison was coming off his two best performances of the season, scoring 35 points in a win over Detroit on Friday and 34 in victory over Boston on Sunday.
“We’ve won some games even without Gilbert over the last year or two,” Jordan said. “Look at Cleveland tonight—they killed Golden State without LeBron (James), so things like that happen in the league. You can withstand it for a couple of games, but in the long run you eventually wear down.”
Despite playing without Jamison for most of the game Tuesday, the Wizards beat the Pistons for the second time in five days and recorded their seventh win in eight games.
Arenas totaled 36 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds as the Wizards improved to 19-3 when he scores 30 or more. The Washington point guard, who will start for the Eastern Conference in the upcoming All-Star game, is averaging 35.0 points in his last three games against Toronto (22-23).
Stevenson (15 points) and Butler (13) were the only other Wizards in double figures Tuesday as the team improved to an impressive 18-4 at home. Now they’ll go for their season-high fourth straight win on the road, where they are just 9-13.
The Raptors are 14-7 on their home court—including a 10-2 mark versus Eastern Conference opponents—and are also going for a season-best fourth consecutive victory there. To achieve that, they’ll have to bounce back from a 102-84 road loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday when they were held to their third-fewest points this season.
“I think we ran out of gas a little bit,” said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, whose team was playing a back-to-back after beating Boston on Friday night. “Those aren’t excuses, but that’s just the NBA.”
Raptors leading scorer Chris Bosh didn’t need any excuses as he recorded 26 points and 12 rebounds. Bosh, also a starter for the East in the All-Star game, is averaging 28.0 points and 12.3 rebounds in his last three meetings with the Wizards.
Toronto guard Jose Calderon is averaging 14.0 points and 8.5 assists over the last six games, a big boost from his season marks of 8.2 and 4.6, respectively. That play has been especially key as second-leading scorer T.J. Ford remains day-to-day with a sore right ankle that has sidelined him for the last four contests.
The Raptors won the previous meeting between these teams 116-111 on Jan. 7, sparked by Bosh’s 24 points and 15 rebounds. Arenas scored 33 for the Wizards while Butler added 24.