TORONTO – DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points, including a long jump shot with 13 seconds left, to lift the Toronto Raptors 95-93 over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday in the final game before the all-star break.
Lou Williams topped Toronto (36-17) with 27 points, while Kyle Lowry, who will start for the East team in the all-star game, added 13 points, and Greivis Vasquez finished with 11.
John Wall, who will play alongside Lowry on the East squad, led the Wizards (33-21) with 21 points.
Coaches are always concerned about the final game before the break, but Wednesday’s certainly didn’t lack for effort or intensity in a battle between two of the best teams in the East.
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The Wizards clutched a 76-75 lead going into the fourth quarter in front of a soldout crowd of 19,800 fans at Air Canada Centre that included Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions, who autographed footballs and chucked them up into the crowd.
A three-pointer by Williams and free throw by Amir Johnson put Toronto up by four with just under three minutes to play. And then in an eye-popping display of guts, Lowry showed why he’s an all-star when he slid about 10 feet for a loose ball, beating a sprinting Wall to it with just under three minutes to play.
Neither team scored until 13 seconds to go, when DeRozan stepped back to drain a jump shot in the face of Paul Pierce. Wall would miss on a long jumper to send the ACC fans home happy.
Toronto is 3-0 this season against the Wizards, the team that is hot on the second-place Raptors heels in the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors go into the unofficial halfway point boasting a franchise-record 36 wins. Their record at this point of the season was 29 – in 2002, ’07 and ’10.
The NBA doubled the days off this year to a minimum eight days. The Raptors don’t play again until Feb. 20 at Atlanta, giving them nine days off. It’s the first of six games in eight days, a gruelling stretch that sees them play five teams with winning records.
The game was a fierce fight from the opening whistle with the lead changing hands six times in an opening quarter that saw Toronto take a 27-25 edge into the second.
Three consecutive three-pointers by Toronto gave the Raptors a nine-point lead early in the second, but the Wizards replied with a 13-1 run to go up by three. The Raptors led 49-47 at halftime.
The Wizards took their biggest lead of the game when Wall found Otto Porter for an alley-oop dunk that had Washington up 73-63 with just under three minutes to go in the third. The Raptors closed the quarter with a 12-3 run to trail by one.