TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan poured in 34 points in another superb performance to lift the Toronto Raptors to a 94-91 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.
The victory boosted the Raptors’ record to 20-13, marking just the second time in franchise history — the first time was last season — that they’ve won 20 games before the New Year.
Bismack Biyombo had a game-high 12 rebounds plus 12 points, while Terrence Ross finished with 14 points and Kyle Lowry had 11 for Toronto. Jonas Valanciunus, who missed 17 games with a broken hand and made his first start since Nov. 20, had nine rebounds to go with eight points.
Otto Porter Jr. had 20 points to top Washington (14-16), while John Wall added 19.
It was the Wizards’ first trip to Toronto since they embarrassed the Raptors with their four-game sweep in the first round of last season’s playoffs, and the Raptors weren’t about to play gracious host.
The Raptors, who edged the Wizards 84-82 on a buzzer-beater by Cory Joseph on Nov. 28 in Washington, led virtually from the opening whistle and took a 77-65 advantage into the fourth quarter in front of a capacity crowd of 19,800 at the Air Canada Centre.
The Wizards chipped away at the Raptors’ lead in the fourth, and when Wall found Marcin Gortat for an easy dunk with 1:28 to play, it cut Toronto’s advantage to just three points. Jared Dudley drilled a three from directly in front of the Raptors’ bench to make it a one-point game with 39.5 seconds left, then, with the crowd on its feet, Dudley clanged a second wide-open shot off the rim.
A pair of free throws from Lowry would be the points that clinched the victory, as Wall and Dudley both missed on three-point attempts in the dying seconds.
The night marked another milestone for Raptors coach Dwane Casey, who tied Sam Mitchell for most games coached in franchise history — 345.
“Who keeps up with that crap?” said Casey, who’s not much for milestones.
When prodded, he said “I’m thankful to the players, ownership, front office for giving us an opportunity to be here. . . It hasn’t been easy growing the program and developing it, and getting to where it is, we’re not done yet, we’re still growing. We’re not where we’re going to be, or need to be yet.”
The Raptors jumped out to a seven-point lead in the first quarter, but couldn’t put any distance on the Wizards, and led just 28-27 going into the second.
Toronto pulled away in the second quarter and when Biyombo connected on two free throws with four seconds left it sent the Raptors into the locker-room at halftime with a 52-41 lead — their largest to that point.
The Wizards pulled to within two points midway through the third, but backed by DeRozan’s 12 points in the frame, Toronto stretched its advantage to 13 points.
The Raptors host the Charlotte Hornets on New Year’s Day.