This year more than any, the Toronto Raptors have prided themselves on their depth — the “Bench Broskis,” as they’re known inside the Air Canada Centre. It’s what helped carry them to the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and on Wednesday night, it carried them to a massive 108-98 Game 5 victory over the Washington Wizards. DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 32, but it was backup guard Delon Wright’s 18 points — including 11 in the fourth quarter — that rescued the hosts.
Toronto finished the game on a 26-14 run after trailing 87-82 with nine minutes remaining. Washington, meanwhile, missed 11 of its final 15 shots.
DeRozan got off to a hot start — 13 points in the opening quarter — but the Wizards finished the first quarter leading by one, 24-23, after scoring the final five points of the opening period off a Mike Scott three and a Wall jumper as the horn sounded.
But things began to swing in the hosts’ direction roughly three minutes into the second quarter. After a Kelly Oubre Jr. three put Washington up 33-31, the Raptors went on a 12-3 run, holding the Wizards without a field goal for over five minutes and stretching their lead to as large as seven. But again, the Wizards closed the quarter strong, and Bradley Beal’s corner three cut the deficit to one, 48-47, heading into halftime. DeRozan’s 20 led the way for the hosts.
DeRozan started the second half where he left off in the first, scoring six of the Raptors’ first nine points out of the break. All three buckets came off of similar sets: DeRozan coming off a screen and using his length, athleticism and exceptional midrange touch to score on a variety of jumpers in and around the paint. But the Wizards refused to go away, and the two teams’ stars — Kyle Lowry and DeRozan versus Wall and Beal — started heating up. The third quarter featured 14 lead changes and five ties. Fittingly, at the end of the period, both teams had scored the exact same number of points: 31. The Raptors led 79-78 with 12 minutes to go.
The Wizards took surged to a five-point lead with just under nine minutes left after Oubre Jr. finished a dunk through a foul and made the free throw to make it 87-82. But the hosts came racing back out of Dwane Casey’s timeout, scoring six straight — capped by a strong drive from Lowry — to retake the lead at 88-87 and force a Scott Brooks timeout.
The teams continued to battle hard, though fatigue was apparent on the offensive end. And though the Raptors held onto the lead, it remained within a couple of possessions until Wright took over. The lanky third-year guard, who is only playing as much as he is due to an injury to Fred VanVleet, drained a deep three to put Toronto up 97-93 and then scored a layup in transition to push the lead to six with just under three minutes. The Toronto bench outscored Washington’s 39-27, and the hosts made 11 for 25 from three compared with just five for 26 for the visitors.
The Wizards, who to that point had battled hard, seemingly ran out of gas. They shot just eight for 24 from the field in the final stanza and one of 10 from three. They also committed five turnovers. They’ll have to find something when they head back home Friday night hoping to extend their season. That “something” will have to come in the form of a better performance from starters not named John Wall. While Wall, who played 44 minutes, had his struggles in the fourth, he still led the team in points (26 on 10 of 21 shooting) and assists (nine) and pulled down nine rebounds. The other four starters, meanwhile, went 18 for 46 from the field. Bradley Beal, who has thrived at home and struggled on the road this series, will need to step up, as will Otto Porter Jr., who is averaging just 10 points per game this series after averaging 14.7 in the regular season.