Raptors hold off pesky Wizards

DeMar DeRozan’s statistical contribution to the Toronto Raptors’ win Sunday night wasn’t exactly all-star calibre — but his ability to get to the free-throw line certainly was.

Raptors 99 Wizards 92

TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan’s statistical contribution to the Toronto Raptors’ win Sunday night wasn’t exactly all-star calibre — but his ability to get to the free-throw line certainly was.

DeRozan took charge in the second half, helping the Raptors avoid yet another fourth-quarter collapse on the way to a 99-92 triumph over the Washington Wizards. The third-year guard scored 13 of his 15 points after the break, barrelling his way to the hoop and making life miserable for Washington defenders.

His aggressiveness led to a free-throw barrage that helped Toronto fend off hard-charging Washington for just its third win in the last nine games. But it wasn’t without some tense moments, particularly after the Wizards whittled a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit down to three.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games this season,” said DeRozan, who added five rebounds and three assists. “We definitely have to learn from (them), and I think we did tonight.”

DeRozan shot 7 for 9 from the line, the latest in a string of impressive efforts that has seen him average nearly 10 foul shots per game — on par with the best players in the league.

Head coach Dwane Casey said the plan of late has been to give DeRozan more of a chance to drive to the basket, something he has done successfully the past four games.

“We’ve been getting a lot of sets that have him attacking the basket, because he’s such a good athlete,” Casey said. “He’s getting a good balance between jump shots and attacking the rim, and that’s what I like about his game right now.

“Our spacing has been good for him to drive, and he’s been making good decisions.”

DeRozan has waited a long time to earn the kind of respect from officials usually afforded to players like Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant, but he says that’s out of his control.

“Everything comes with time,” he said.

“Some nights you may get all the calls, some nights you may not, but that can’t make you stop your approach to the game, and especially being aggressive.”

Up 46-42 at the half, Toronto held Washington in check throughout the third quarter thanks in large part to an aggressive stretch from DeRozan, who went 6 for 7 from the line in the period. Alan Anderson ended the quarter in style, knocking down a jumper at the horn as the Raptors entered the fourth ahead 71-61.

Andrea Bargnani, who led the team with 18 points, connected on a pair of free throws early in the fourth to give Toronto an 80-65 edge — its largest of the game — but Washington stuck around, closing to within six on a Jordan Crawford 18-foot jumper with just over five minutes remaining.

John Wall then went to work, hitting Kevin Seraphin for a two-handed dunk in traffic — Wall’s 11th assist of the night — to make it an 89-86 game.

An Amir Johnson dunk following a DeRozan miss gave Toronto a five-point advantage on the ensuing possession, and DeRozan connected on a driving layup with 24.5 seconds left to put the game out of reach.

It was one of the uglier wins the Raptors have enjoyed this season — and that wasn’t lost on Casey, who lamented the team’s defensive struggles.

“Another below average defensive game for us,” Casey said.

“Of all the things, I was disappointed in that. That’s going to be our challenge as a staff, to keep tuned defensively the rest of the way and not lose what foundation we have.”

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