If it looked like the Wizards were dragging their feet and slow to wake up on Thursday night against the Toronto Raptors, your eyes were not lying to you. After they secured a narrow victory in overtime, the Wizards revealed the full extent of a very difficult turnaround from playing in Milwaukee the night before.
The Wizards lost a close game to the Bucks that started at 7 p.m. central time, then flew southeast to Tampa Bay, FL where the Raptors are playing this season. They got in around 4 a.m. and went to their hotel rooms, only to have to be up for COVID-19 testing at 8 a.m.
The team didn’t hold a breakfast meeting or walkthrough like they often do before games, but that still left little time to catch up on sleep before it was time to start the process of getting ready for another game.
“We knew the guys were going to be fatigued. I knew it, but I didn’t want to bring it up,” head coach Scott Brooks said.
“I knew we were fatigued, I was. I was tired. I finally woke up in overtime. It was a tough game, tough travel. We lost an hour.”
Going from Wisconsin to Florida overnight to play two games in a 24-hour span was not ideal, but little about this season’s schedule has been ideal. The league packed in as many games as they could over six months to try to play a season during a pandemic outside of a bubble.
Each team is playing 72 games, 10 fewer than most seasons, but during a much shorter period of time. That has led to many more back-to-backs and stretches of three games in four nights.
The Wizards’ schedule this season features 17 back-to-backs in 72 games. In 2018-19, their last normal 82-game season, they had 14.
The only good news is Thursday was their last. They have five games left with days off in between each of them.
“It’s just very unfortunate with the way the schedule [is]… It’s very unfortunate,” Russell Westbrook said.
“As much as we love to play, it’s good to play, our health and our body is important, too. I’m not too happy about the way we made this back-to-back. But we got through it and we move on. Hopefully, in seasons to come they do a better job of scheduling and taking those things into consideration. Especially flying from Milwaukee all the way to Tampa.”
Brooks believes the Wizards’ lack of energy made it particularly difficult to play defense. The Raptors made nine threes in the first half as the Wizards were slow on closeouts.
Toronto, though, only made five threes in the final three periods, including overtime, as the Wizards got a second wind. They got a big boost from Raul Neto, who had a career-high 25 points, and Robin Lopez who pitched in with 24 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Many Wizards players were operating on little sleep. But Lopez was helped by a personality trait that came in handy.
“I can sleep in the middle of a tornado. That’s something that if I have any s-level skills, that would be it. Sleep for me isn’t a problem,” Lopez said.