The Washington Wizards were nearly flawless in a road win Wednesday over the Toronto Raptors.
The complete opposite happened in Friday’s rematch, as All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan’s game-high 32 points led the Raptors to a 114-106 win at Verizon Center in northwest D.C.
The Raptors played more aggressively, scoring 35 points in the first and fourth quarters and building a 19-point lead before halftime.
As they have several times this season, the Wizards (36-24) came back thanks to sharpshooting by Bradley Beal. Washington briefly went up 72-71 with 3:32 left in the third quarter, but that marked the Wizards’ last lead of the game.
Toronto (37-25) won without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who is out four to six weeks after undergoing wrist surgery this week. More importantly, the Raptors won the season series over the Wizards 2-1 and now hold the tiebreaker for playoff positioning.
“We don’t want to try and [harp] on it too much, but at the same time we do want to stay in the range that we are at and the position that we are in,” said Beal, who had 27 points and seven rebounds. “It is important that we have to win more game than them. We just have to have a better focus coming into the game.”
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks applauded the team’s resilience, but said defense must remain a priority to win.
“We didn’t have the defensive urgency to start the game,” he said. “Thirty-five points in the opening quarter, that basically set the tone for [Toronto]. It was a crazy game. We came back and tied it or maybe even went up a point, but we didn’t get the stops. When you score 106 points on your home floor, you usually win the game.”
The Wizards dished out 23 assists compared to the Raptors’ 16, made 28 of 32 free throws and forced Toronto into 17 turnovers.
However, the Raptors shot nearly 51 percent from the floor, outrebounded the Wizards 51-46 and got 44 points from its bench, versus only 14 from the Wizards reserves.
Brandon Jennings, who signed with the Wizards Wednesday after being waived by the New York Knicks, played his first game Friday and scored zero points with two assists in nearly 10 minutes of action.
“I wish we would have won of course, but I definitely know what I can do now,” Jennings said. “I know John [Wall] and a couple of my teammates were encouraging me and just telling me,’ Hey, be aggressive when you’re out there next game.’ … The first one is out of the way. I’m happy about that.”
Washington returns to action Sunday at Verizon Center against the Orlando Magic (23-39) before embarking on a seven-day, five-game West Coast trip that starts Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns (20-42).