Washington (AFP) – The Toronto Raptors punched their ticket to the second round of the NBA playoffs on Friday with a 102-92 victory over the Washington Wizards.
With 24 points from Kyle Lowry and a big contribution from their reserves, the Raptors notched the first road win of their Eastern Conference first-round series to eliminate the Wizards four games to two.
DeMar DeRozan added 16 points and Jonas Valanciunas chipped in 14 for Toronto, who trailed by five going into the fourth quarter but out-scored the flagging Wizards 29-14 in the final period.
The Raptors bench was crucial to the comeback.
Toronto’s reserves out-scored Washington’s bench 21-6 in the second half while out-rebounding them 15-3.
“Our bench did a great job,” Lowry said. “I played 31 minutes. Demar played 33. In a playoff game, a closeout game, you would never think your stars could do that.
“But that’s how our team is built.”
Backup forward Pascal Siakam made his first five shots, racking up 11 points and eight rebounds.
Jakob Poeltl was a strong defensive presence and chipped in seven points and seven rebounds.
Backup point guard Fred VanVleet, limited by a shoulder injury earlier in the series, scored just five points but Raptors coach Dwane Casey said his presence was key.
“He’s the engine, the toughness, that little birdie on the shoulder,” Casey said. “I thought it really propelled Pascal and those other guys to give them a sense of confidence.”
Bradley Beal paced the Wizards with 32 points and John Wall added 23, but it wasn’t enough for a Washington team that coughed up 14 turnovers and connected on just four of 16 shots from the field in the fourth quarter.
A weary Wall missed all four of his shots in the fourth as the Raptors reached the second round for a third straight season.
The Raptors next face either the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers forced game seven in that series on Friday, humbling LeBron James and the Cavs 121-87.