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Raptors eliminate Wizards from playoff contention

The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- After seeing their playoff hopes die just two days earlier, the Toronto Raptors came to life in the second half Wednesday night, pulling away from the Washington Wizards to pick up an 88-78 victory at the Air Canada Centre.

The loss officially eliminated the Wizards from playoff contention as well.

"We've got to figure it out for next year," said Washington's John Wall, as the Wizards ran their road record to 7-30. "We can win at home with anybody. We've just got to find a way to win on the road. That's how you become a playoff team and that's how you get better and develop."

Toronto's DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 25 points while Wall led the way for Washington with 20. Raptors' rookie center Jonas Valanciunas also had 24 points in his nearly 41 minutes on the floor.

"Before, he would disappear a little bit," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of Valanciunas. "Now, you can go to him at the end of the game. He can pass the basketball and he can defend. That is huge for him."

Twice in the fourth quarter, Emeka Okafor hit short-range jumpers to make the score a three-point game, but each time Toronto had an answer.

The second time Okafor brought it back to three points, Landry Fields and Amir Johnson each scored to increase the Raptors' lead to 78-71 with just under six and a half minutes remaining.

DeRozan drained a 21-foot jumper at the three-minute mark that put Toronto up by 10 points for the first time of the night at 84-74.

"It definitely feels good," said DeRozan. "It's frustrating when we let teams jump out on us like that and we have to fight our way back, especially when we know that we can play like we did in the second half. We just stepped it up."

Trailing by nine points heading into the second half, the Raptors came to life in the third. Toronto erased the deficit and also scored the last nine points of the quarter to build a 68-62 lead.

DeRozan was crucial in starting a 7-0 run that brought the game back to a two-point margin at 54-52 with seven minutes remaining.

"We were up 11 going into halftime and then you just kind of go through the motions in the first three minutes and they gone on a run on you," said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. "Now all that work in the 24 minutes that you did is gone in two or three minutes and that's what we did."

The second quarter belonged to the Wizards as they made two big runs to open up a lead.

They went on an 8-0 run to build up a seven-point advantage and after Toronto narrowed the deficit, the Wizards went on a 14-0 run that included back-to-back 3-pointers by A.J. Price and Cartier Martin.

The Raptors scored the next six points before Trevor Ariza nailed a pull-up jumper with the last shot of the half and Washington led 50-39.

The Raptors scored the first six points of the first quarter as the Wizards missed their first four shots from the field.

Toronto led for most of the quarter until Ariza hit a straightaway 3-pointer with the last shot of the first that gave Washington their first lead of the game at 24-23.

NOTES: The Raptors were officially eliminated from playoff contention with their 108-98 loss to Detroit at home Monday. ... Prior to the game, Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Fields (right elbow) was healthy enough to play. That just leaves Andrea Bargnani (right elbow) as the only Toronto player inactive due to injury. ... The Wizards announced Wednesday that rookie guard Bradley Beal (right leg) will not play for the rest of the season. Leandro Barbosa (left ACL) is the other injury absence for Washington. ... With Beal done for the season, Wittman was able to assess what he thought of the first season for the number three pick in last year's draft. "I thought he had a really solid rookie year," Wittman said prior to the game. "I thought from day one to where we are now, he made improvements. It was steady growth."
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