TORONTO — Despite some self-inflicted adversity, the Toronto Raptors got it together when it mattered most.
O.G. Anunoby scored a game-high 29 points, Fred VanVleet added 28 and the Toronto Raptors pulled out a 114-104 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday. After taking a 17-point lead into halftime, the Raptors saw their edge diminish to just one point late in the third quarter.
"We lost some urgency in the third quarter, slipped up a little bit, but we picked it up and finished strong," Anunoby said. "That's how games go, you know, (it's a) game of runs, (the) other team’s not going to lay down, they're going to keep fighting."
Adjustments made entering the fourth turned out to be a difference-maker, however.
"We got to 'em and at least made 'em pump fake and sidestep and got 'em out of rhythm a little bit more," said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. "We just weren't pressing up on shooters enough in the third like we had been or like we wanted to."
Anunoby scored 18 of his points in the first quarter, setting a new career-high for points in a single frame.
Pascal Siakam had 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Jakob Poeltl contributed a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double for Toronto (37-38). The Raptors took the season series 2-1 with the victory and have won five of their last seven games.
The win also allowed the Raptors to hold on to ninth spot in the Eastern Conference with Chicago being half a game behind after beating the Los Angeles Lakers 118-108 earlier Sunday.
"I'm most concerned that we can get healthier," Nurse said. "I think that we need to get our guys together and certainly, there's been some moments of really, really good basketball.
"And some stretches where we've looked like we've really got it clicking on both ends, where we're making them take tough shots and we're moving and finding open shots at the other end. And that's really, if we're gonna do that, we're gonna have a great chance."
Kristaps Porzingis led the way with 26 points for Washington (33-42), which was missing starters Bradley Beal, Monte Morris and Kyle Kuzma due to injury.
The Wizards have lost five of their last six and sit 3 1/2 games back of Chicago for the 10th seed — and final play-in spot — in the East.
"We allowed their strengths to beat us," said Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. "We missed some shots and, obviously, that allows them to get out in transition. We had a couple of turnovers, and then second-chance points early in the quarter, I thought that hurt us."
Anunoby started out hot, scoring 13 points in the opening six minutes, and the Raptors took a quick 20-9 edge in the first quarter. But it was Scottie Barnes who made his presence felt early with a steal, followed by a crowd-pleasing 360 dunk.
VanVleet's three-pointer with 4.1 seconds left helped the Raptors take a 37-21 advantage entering the second.
Porzingis scored five straight in a 9-0 run to make it a 43-35 game with 6:43 left. However, Siakam took the reins for Toronto, scoring his first 11 points of the game in the frame to keep Washington at bay.
Up 49-40 with 3:55 left, the Raptors went on a 12-0 run, including eight straight points from VanVleet, and a double-pump reverse dunk by Anunoby. Toronto went into halftime up 63-46.
"I think the first quarter, it was more deflections and steals and trying to get us out of transition," said VanVleet, who had 18 first-half points. "And then the second quarter … shook loose for a couple of buckets and a transition three there."
The Wizards started the third quarter strong, outscoring the Raptors 16-4 in the first 3:37 of the frame. With 2:16 remaining, Johnny Davis hit a three-pointer for Washington to make it an 80-79 game.
But VanVleet struck again with a personal 7-2 run to make it a six-point game. Another Davis three, though, with 14.1 seconds remaining left Toronto with a 87-84 edge with one quarter to go.
Barnes gave the Raptors an 11-point lead with a layup and a free throw to follow 2:48 into the fourth quarter. Anunoby's layup with 5:33 left capped a 12-3 run to put Toronto ahead 108-90 — its largest lead since the second quarter.
The Wizards failed to close within 10 the remainder of the way.
Raptors forwards Precious Achiuwa (right hamstring tightness) and Barnes (left wrist soreness) made their returns to the lineup after missing the previous two games.
Guards Gary Trent Jr. (right elbow stiffness), Dalano Banton (left thumb sprain) and forward Joe Wieksamp (right hamstring strain) were out. Will Barton exited the game in the first quarter with a left ankle sprain and was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
Raptors: Close out their four-game homestand against the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
Wizards: Return home to host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2023.
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press