Raptors look to close out Wizards

Exactly one year ago, the Toronto Raptors clinched a postseason series on the road.

The location was Milwaukee, but the Raptors are hoping to experience the same feeling Friday night when they visit the Washington Wizards in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Toronto won two of three road games in last season’s series, including a 92-89 win at Milwaukee in Game 6 when DeMar DeRozan scored 32 points.

The Raptors’ series against Washington reached six games because the home team is unbeaten. Toronto allowed 122 points last Friday in Game 3 and then blew a double-digit lead and scored 18 points in the fourth quarter of a 106-98 loss in Game 4 on Sunday.

Toronto, which did not lose three straight all season, rebounded nicely Wednesday by getting a 108-98 win in Game 5 Wednesday. DeRozan scored 32 points on a night when the Raptors tried a different alignment down the stretch.

Center Jonas Valanciunas played fourth-quarter minutes for the first time all series alongside Delon Wright, Kyle Lowry, DeRozan and C.J. Miles. That group played seven minutes together, but the unit was put together with about nine minutes remaining and Toronto facing a five-point deficit.

DeRozan scored 30 points before the fourth quarter while Wright scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth, Valanciunas totaled six points and seven rebounds, helping the Raptors control the glass by a 15-12 margin in a game where they were outrebounded 50-35.

“We understand each other’s capabilities,” DeRozan said. “When guys line up out there, (we know) what we’re all capable of doing offensively, defensively. It showed tonight. Everybody stepped up. Delon stepped up big. With C.J. out there, he spaces the floor tremendously. You’ve got to worry about a knock-down shooter like him. We just exploited everything individual-wise that we could do.”

If the Raptors do everything DeRozan mentioned down the stretch like Wednesday, they will avoid a Game 7 at home on Sunday, something they were able to do last season.

Besides the relatively new lineup, the Raptors also reverted to its style emphasizing 3-point shooting. Toronto made 11 of 25 3-pointers after only attempting 18 in Game 5.

“We took the shots that we normally take, and there’s nothing abnormal about it,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “That’s what was uncharacteristic about the two games in Washington, the fact that guys were turning down shots. I thought ball movement was better (Wednesday).”

The Wizards have yet to lose to Toronto at home in a postseason game.

Three of Washington’s four home postseason wins over the Raptors have been by double digits. The Wizards also won Games 3 and 4 of a first-round series three years ago when they swept Toronto.

Now they are facing elimination after fading down the stretch by shooting 8 of 24 in the final 12 minutes.

Washington guard John Wall is averaging 26.6 points in the series and was 2 of 6 in the fourth Wednesday. Bradley Beal scored 20 on 8-of-20 shooting but missed five of six shots in the fourth.

“We feel like we let one slip away,” Wall said. “They made the biggest shots at the end of the game.”

Those were Wall’s words after the Wizards missed seven straight shots and now they are hoping to avoid a repeat display of stagnant offense on their home floor to keep their season going.

“For sure, to be that close at home against this team, it was there,” Washington forward Markieff Morris said. “We just have to execute towards the end.”

The Wizards have been able to execute at home in the postseason recently. They are on an eight-game playoff home winning streak in the postseason.

Washington’s ability to execute might be missing a key component in Otto Porter Jr., who is dealing with a strain in the lower part of his right leg, his status is unknown and could be based on MRI results.

“We don’t know yet, but he’s banged up,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said. “So hopefully we will find out some good news and see how he feels tomorrow.”

Porter was initially injured April 10 against the Boston Celtics. He averaged 14.7 points in the regular season but is averaging 10 points in the series.

“We need Otto,” Brooks said. “We need Otto to be more of a nine or 10-point scorer for us to win this series.”