Toronto Raptors, DeMar DeRozan riddle Washington Wizards

By The Sports Xchange   |   Jan. 9, 2016 at 1:33 AM

WASHINGTON -- DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors have faced the Washington Wizards three times this season and twice in the last 10 days.

Each ended in Toronto wins and the All-Star guard set his season scoring high in the last two, including 35 points on Friday night in the Raptors' 97-88 victory.

Motivation for DeRozan and the Raptors doesn't require much thinking.

"We got swept last year," DeRozan said.

He was referring to the 2015 Eastern Conference playoffs. Washington won the opening-round series 4-0.

During the last two regular seasons, Toronto is the boss.

Guard Kyle Lowry had 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and 10 rebounds for the Raptors (23-15), who are 3-0 against the Wizards this season and have won six straight non-playoff games in the head-to-head matchup.

Toronto, in the middle of a five-game road trip, took the lead for good with a 22-6 run closing the third quarter.

"Guys locked in defensively," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said after Toronto held Washington to 14 points in the third quarter. "A lot of times when your defense kicks in, your offense will follow. That's what happened with us in the third quarter."

What happened to the Wizards (15-19) since a four-game winning streak in late December is nothing but trouble. Washington has lost five of six games, including two to Toronto.

Guard John Wall scored 21 points for the Wizards but had seven turnovers and only four assists. Forward Otto Porter had 16 points.

"The last three games we were taking (off) periods of the game," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "Whether it's a whole quarter or a partial quarter, we take shortcuts."

Against the Wizards, DeRozan is all desire. His previous season high of 34 points came in Toronto's 94-91 home victory on Dec. 30. He went 15 of 15 on free throws in the final game on the 2015 calendar.

The All-Star guard once again feasted from the free throw line against Washington, hitting 12 of 13. Toronto made 24 of 26.

"Well, I'll tell you what. DeMar has been playing efficient basketball for the last couple weeks or the last month," Casey said.

DeRozan scored 21 points in the second half.

"I think he just made a conscious effort of taking things into his own hands," Casey continued. "Playing through contact, playing through their physicality."

Lowry's third 3-pointer gave the Raptors their largest lead at 85-71 with 5:41 remaining.

Washington closed within six by scoring six points in 15 seconds on Porter's three-point play and Wall's 3-pointer. Guard Ramon Sessions scored 14 points and his layup pulled the Wizards closer at 91-85 with 2:13 left. DeRozan countered with a jumper and two free throws.

The Raptors won the previous four meetings by four points or fewer. Toronto won 84-82 in Washington on Nov. 28 on guard Cory Joseph's buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

All those wins couldn't stop DeRozan from remembering what happened in the 2015 playoffs.

"That was a bad feeling to get swept," he said. "Coming back here, just playing against them gives you that same reminder of what happened."

Forward James Johnson had eight points and nine rebounds in his third straight start. Johnson replaced DeMarre Carroll, who had arthroscopic right knee surgery on Jan. 6.

Toronto outrebounded Washington 47-35 and scored 17 second-chance points, 10 more than the Wizards. Forward Luis Scola had 11 points for the Raptors, who overcame 22 turnovers.

Turnovers dominated the first half with each team reaching double figures before entering the locker room tied 47-47.

Washington shot 39.3 percent from the field in the opening half. Center Marcin Gortat had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Currently 12th in the Eastern Conference, the Wizards have to improve for a third straight playoff trip.

"I don't think we're in panic mode," said starting guard Garrett Temple, who scored seven points. "We are in look in the mirror and take pride mode."

NOTES: Raptors F Terrance Ross left in second half with a lower back injury and did not return. ... Wizards F Kris Humphries missed his second straight game with a knee injury. F Drew Gooden played after sitting out the previous two games with a calf strain. ... According to Elias Sports Bureau, Friday marks exactly two years since the Raptors last had a record below .500. The Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls are the only other teams to maintain a record better than .500 during that span. ... Toronto plays at the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, the same night Washington visits Orlando. The Wizards are 3-0 against the Magic this season and have won 11 straight in the series.

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