The Toronto Raptors punched their ticket to the second round of the NBA playoffs for the third straight season 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 Utah Jazz also booked their spot in the next round with a 96-91 win to eliminate Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games.
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.”
– ‘The engine’ –
Backup Forward Pascal Siakam made his first five shots, racking up 11 points and eight rebounds.
Reserve point guard Fred VanVleet, limited by a shoulder injury earlier in the series, scored just five points. Raptors coach Dwane Casey however said his presence was key.
“He’s the engine, the toughness, that little birdie on the shoulder,” Casey said.
Bradley Beal paced the Wizards with 32 points and John Wall added 23.
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.
Elsewhere, rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 38 points and the Jazz eliminated a star-studded Thunder roster in their Western Conference series.
Derrick Favors scored 13 points and Rudy Gobert had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Jazz, who lost starting guard Ricky Rubio with a hamstring injury in the first quarter.
Westbrook had 46 points for the Thunder and Steven Adams tallied 19 points and 16 rebounds.
“Our team did a good job of sticking together. We got some shots at the end of the game we just weren’t able to get the one we needed,” Westbrook said.
The Thunder had tried to retool their roster this season around Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, but it was a disappointing ending to the rebuild. George had just five points and Anthony seven on Friday.
Westbrook got into an brief verbal altercation with a fan at the end of the game. Westbrook stopped and tried to slap the fan’s camera away before security stepped in to escort him to the dressing room.
“I don’t confront fans, fans confront me,” Westbrook told reporters.
The Jazz will square off against the Houston Rockets in the first game of their series on Sunday.
In Indianapolis, Victor Oladipo finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his first playoff triple double as the Pacers levelled the series with the Cavaliers at 3-3.
They will get a chance to advance to the next round with a win in Sunday’s winner-take-all showdown in Cleveland.
“It was a big win for us. Now we’ve got to go get Sunday,” Oladipo said. “We got to leave it all out there — win or go home. Speaks for itself.”
The Pacers, who were on the wrong end of a missed goaltending call in game five, lowered the boom in this one.
– James suffers cut –
Thaddeus Young floored LeBron James with an elbow, opening a cut above the future hall of famer’s left eye. Cleveland’s Kevin Love left the contest in the third quarter after colliding with Myles Turner.
James led the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs with 22 points and seven assists. With the game out of hand, he sat out all of the fourth quarter.
No other Cavs player scored more than 13 points while the Pacers’ balanced attack saw seven players score in double figures.
But history is on James’ side as he is 12-0 all-time in first-round series. – Agence France-Presse