• March 20, 2023

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Raptors reserves make final case for roster spots in win over Wizards to close pre-season

In the battle for Toronto Raptors roster spots and playing time, Malachi Flynn and Sam Dekker made solid cases on Tuesday.

The duo combined for 25 fourth-quarter points to lift the Raptors 113-108 over the Washington Wizards in their pre-season finale.

“They both played really good, there’s no doubt and Sam certainly got hot there, it’s going to make the decisions tougher, I think, as we move forward,” stated coach Nick Nurse. “We’re going to have to talk it over and think through a little bit and see what we end up with.”

Flynn, who is fighting for a spot in Nurse’s rotation in his second season with the Raptors, finished with 22 points.

“I was really happy with Malachi bouncing back again. Seems like he’s been really good, and had a couple tough nights and then really good,” Nurse said. “He bounced back, sign of a competitive guy. Obviously had a big fourth quarter there, as well.”

Dekker, who had 18 points versus his former team, is battling for one of the three remaining roster spots.

Veteran guard Goran Dragic, who was acquired in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Kyle Lowry to Miami in the off-season, added 16 points for the Raptors (3-2).

“Kind of what I was hoping to see out of Goran tonight to run the show and look at his opportunities,” Nurse said. “Looked much more comfortable out there tonight, which is good. Put in a couple of his old sets that he’s used to running back in the day and try to get him back in the groove.”

Gary Trent Jr. had 12 points and six rebounds, while Precious Achiuwa and rookie Justin Champagnie grabbed 10 rebounds apiece. Khem Birch had six points and six rebounds in his second game since recovering from COVID-19.

Kyle Kuzma had 24 points to top Washington (0-3).

A night after the Raptors’ 107-92 victory over Houston in Toronto, Nurse opted to rest starters Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby. It was also a chance to get a last look at players vying for the available roster spots before opening-night rosters are set.

The Wizards raced out to an early 13-point lead but the Raptors sliced the deficit to 30-26 by the end of the first quarter.

Washington regained a double-digit advantage in the second, but the Raptors replied with a 22-10 run to go ahead for the first time since the game’s opening minute. The teams went into halftime tied at 58-58.

The Wizards led 89-81 with one quarter to play.

The Raptors will see the Wizards again when they host Washington in their regular-season opener on Oct. 20th, in front of a full crowd at Scotiabank Arena.

Because of COVID-19 regulations in Ontario, the Raptors haven’t played in front of a full arena in Toronto since Feb, 28, 2020. Border restrictions forced them to call Tampa, Fla., home last season.

Steve Carr

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