Both the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards remain in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference standings, but neither team is playing like it lately.
Continuing to surge after the acquisition of Rudy Gay, Toronto will go for its seventh win in eight games Monday night when it hosts Washington, which has won six of eight on the strength of an improving offense. The Wizards are looking to snap a five-game losing streak in Toronto and avenge Tuesday's 96-88 home loss to the Raptors.
The Raptors (23-33) are still four games out of the East's eighth spot, but they're 7-3 since Gay arrived from Memphis. Not only has Gay elevated Toronto's play, but he's been more productive with his new team, averaging 21.4 points after putting up 17.2 through 42 games for the Grizzlies.
He scored a season-high 32 in a 100-98 win over New York on Friday, taking over in the third quarter with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
"You can give him the ball, he's a guy who can get that big bucket for you, he's a guy who can shoot over the defense and make plays, he has the ability to make those shots," point guard Kyle Lowry told the Raptors' official website. "He doesn't worry about making or taking those shots, he thinks he's going to make them all."
The Wizards (17-37) remain the NBA's worst road team with a 4-22 mark, but they've won two in a row and 13 of 22 overall. They're 11-4 when facing opponents that are at or above .500 in that stretch, though they're 2-5 against foes with losing records.
Washington still ranks last in the league with 92.0 ppg, but the offense has made strides recently, averaging 99.0 points over the last eight contests. The Wizards used a 54-34 edge on points in the paint to overcome 19 3-pointers from Houston in a 105-103 home win Saturday.
Emeka Okafor had 17 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double in five games. He's averaging 15.6 points on 57.1 percent shooting along with 10.4 rebounds over that span.
"I thought Emeka played outstanding for us, again," coach Randy Wittman said. "He was doing the job down there when he was getting the ball."
While Gay has been getting the job done and quickly becoming popular with fans in Toronto, support for Andrea Bargnani is waning. Bargnani, who remains with the team despite rumors he could be traded before last week's deadline, was booed by the home crowd Friday.
Bargnani has gone scoreless over 34 minutes in his last two games and is averaging 6.0 points in seven contests since returning from an elbow injury that sidelined him for nearly two months.
"I don't think it's fair just because a guy's been hurt, he's been out," coach Dwane Casey said. "Let's pull for him. If you're a fan, let's be fans for our guys, not for the opposing team's guys."
Bargnani had nine points on 4-of-7 shooting last week in Washington while Gay and DeMar DeRozan each scored 24. Bradley Beal finished with 25 points for the Wizards but John Wall struggled, going 1 of 12 from the field and matching a season high with seven turnovers.