The Washington Wizards will face a desperate team Thursday night when they visit the Toronto Raptors in Tampa.
While the Wizards have been on a nice little roll that has enhanced their playoff chances despite a 135-134 road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, the Raptors are coming off a 1-3 Western trip that has dimmed their playoff outlook.
If the Raptors defeat the Wizards, it would keep their hopes percolating. A loss, however, could be devastating to their chances of an eighth consecutive postseason appearance.
"I would say that's probably our last-chance saloon a little bit, right?" Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "I think them getting that one against us would be awful tough for us to recover from. We get it; it puts us in there legitimately."
The Raptors (27-39) trail the Wizards (30-36) by three games for the final play-in tournament spot. Each team has six games remaining.
The Raptors are 2-0 against the Wizards this season and have the tiebreaker.
Since their 103-101 loss to the Raptors on April 5, the Wizards have gone 13-4.
"I think we can't solely concentrate on them; there might be somebody else we can catch, too, but this would certainly go a long way to keeping us in the race, for sure," Nurse said.
"We've got a chance, we've got a shot," said Fred VanVleet, who had 27 points and 13 assists in the Raptors' 105-100 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night. "I don't know if it's a good feeling to be in this situation. ... I know there's been a lot of talk of the play-in and should it be there, should it not. But it's the situation we're in, and we've got to try to take advantage of every opportunity we have right now."
OG Anunoby (calf) is listed as doubtful for Thursday, but Gary Trent Jr. (leg) is listed as probable after missing six games.
The Raptors will have to contend with Russell Westbrook, who is in pursuit of the NBA career triple-double record, and Bradley Beal, who scored 42 points on Wednesday.
Westbrook earned his 179th career triple-double on Wednesday with 29 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds and is two short of the record held by Oscar Robertson.
Westbrook has 33 triple-doubles this season. He matched his career best with 24 assists, had a career-best 21 rebounds and scored 14 points in the 154-141 home win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday.
"Point guards don't do what he does," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "They're not built that way. There might be some that probably shoot better, there might be some that probably can do certain things better, but there's nobody in the history of the game that can do what he does throughout the stat sheet."
"I take pride in playmaking and passing and making my teammates better," said Westbrook, who was hampered early in the season with a torn quadriceps muscle. "I'm grateful to have a bunch of teammates that make my job so much easier."
Washington's Chandler Hutchison (knee contusion) left the game in the first quarter Wednesday and did not return. Rui Hachimura (illness) did not play and might miss the game against Toronto as well, Brooks said. The team said it was not related to COVID-19.
--Field Level Media