TORONTO — It’s nine and counting for the red-hot Toronto Raptors.
All-star starter Kyle Lowry poured in 29 points as the Raptors matched their franchise-best nine-game winning streak, beating the Washington Wizards 106-89 on Tuesday.
It wasn’t pretty, but Toronto found a way to win. And that says plenty about this edition of the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan said afterward.
"Just lets you know it’ll be scary once we get rolling on both ends and we play a complete game. Anything is possible," DeRozan said. "We feel like we can beat anybody, compete with anybody every single night."
Lowry had another solid outing, shooting 5-for-9 from three-point range, before some tense moments in the fourth quarter. The two-time all-star got his left wrist caught up in a play, and made a beeline for the dressing room. Post-game Xrays were negative, and the team called it a sprain.
"I really thought that it was something worse than what it was but I’m fine," said Lowry, who broke the same wrist in his rookie season with Memphis.
"I got caught in a screen. I’m fine," he added, his hands stuffed in his pants pockets as he spoke to reporters.
DeRozan added 17 points for the Raptors (30-15), who swept their four-game series with Washington. Terrence Ross added 15 points, while Jonas Valanciunas had 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, and Cory Joseph chipped in with 10 points.
The Raptors tied the franchise-high nine consecutive wins they set March 22 to April 9, 2002. They were ousted in the first round of the playoffs that season by Detroit.
Coach Dwane Casey is trying to temper the team’s mood during this hot streak — "The guys will tell you I’m a negative Nelly," he said pre-game. And true to form, he picked apart the Raptors’ defensive efforts after the victory.
"Our transition defence was non-existent. We were in a malaise with our transition defence," he said. "Again we found a way to win, but you can’t continue to live like that. We’ve got to get a complete game where things are going the way we want them to go both offensively and defensively. I applaud our guys for finding a way to pull it out."
The Raptors were swept by the Wizards in the first round of last season’s playoffs, and are keen to prove they’re a better team this season.
Playing Game 5 of a seven-game homestand, they never led by more than 14 points through the first three quarters before taking a 77-70 advantage into the fourth. Then they put the Wizards away for good.
When DeRozan drove to the basket, and drew a foul, on a floating jumper with 4:40 to play, his three-point play put the Raptors up 95-78, in front of a capacity crowd of 19,800 fans that included six-time Olympian Clara Hughes and retired Canadian NBA veteran Rick Fox.
"I think we’ll all look back after the season is over and look at the individual accomplishments and team accomplishments and enjoy it when we’re not in it," Lowry said. "Right now, we’re too focused on our next opponent … and just taking it game-by-game, day-by-day, hour-by-hour.
"I know everybody’s enjoying it, we’ll enjoy it later."
Casey said winning streaks are good for the fans, the organization and players’ confidence, but "it’s not worth a darn if you don’t go out there and back it up with hard play.
"If you say ‘OK, we won eight in a row,’ or whatever it is, on the court you’re going to get your fanny whupped."
John Wall had 18 points and 14 assists to top the Wizards (20-23), who were missing Bradley Beal. Beal has a broken nose and concussion after being hit in the face by Boston’s Marcus Smart a night earlier.
The Raptors and Wizards matched each other virtually shot for shot through the first quarter, until Joseph scored on back-to-back floating jumpers. His second, as the buzzer sounded to end the quarter, gave Toronto a 24-18 lead going into the second.
Valanciunas cut to the hoop for a basket that put Toronto up by 14 points early in the second, but the Wizards cut the Raptors’ lead to 53-50 at the halftime break.
The Raptors host the New York Knicks on Thursday and Detroit Pistons on Saturday, then are on the road for six in a row.