WASHINGTON — Whether Kyle Lowry should have spent the past weekend in New Orleans as an NBA All-Star is moot. The Toronto Raptors point guard has a day job and the time for rest is over.
Once Lowry found his rhythm against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night, there was little doubt which player shone brightest. Lowry keyed a decisive third quarter and finished with 24 points and 10 assists as the Toronto Raptors returned from the All-Star break with a 103-93 win over the Washington Wizards.
Guards DeMar DeRozen and Greivis Vasquez each scored 14 points for the Raptors (29-24), who won their third straight game and improved to 3-0 against Washington this season.
Toronto shot 56.8 percent from the field, led by 20 points in the second half and had six players score in double figures in the first game after the All-Star break for both teams.
After missing six of eight shots from the field in the first half, Lowry made his first six in the third quarter and scored 14 points. That span turned a two-point lead into a 20-point advantage in the fourth quarter, enough of a margin to overcome a late offensive funk.
Even after the Wizards (25-28) pulled within six points, Lowry saved the day from the foul line.
“It’s always tough to find a rhythm when you are coming off the All-Star break unless you played in the All-Star (Game) or kept working out,” Lowry said. “We figured it out in the second half and third quarter especially for me to get going a little bit.”
Wizards guard John Wall, one of the players selected as an Eastern Conference reserve over Lowry, scored 22 points for the Wizards. However, Wall missed all seven shots from the field in the second half.
Washington has lost three straight and five of six.
Toronto entered the post-All-Star break in third place in the East. The loss dropped Washington into a statistical tie for sixth place with the Brooklyn Nets.
Leading 57-55 early in the third quarter, the Raptors pulled away as Lowry scored 12 points during a 21-6 run. His 3-pointer capped the spurt and gave the Raptors a 78-61 lead with 2:41 remaining in the third before the crowd of 15,624.
“He took the game over in the middle of the third quarter and willed us to a win,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “He just kept attacking and that’s something that really helped us and helped him get to the paint.”
Washington played the final 4:39 without Randy Wittman as the coach was ejected after picking up two technical fouls. The ejection ignited the Wizards, who trailed 99-82 after DeRozen made one of two technical foul shots. Washington scored 11 straight points and trailed 99-93 with 1:06 remaining but would get no closer.
“For some reason, when he got ejected we played with a lot of energy,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “We’ve got to do that from the start and not just when something big like throwing our coach out happens.
After the Wizards surge, Lowry hit four straight free throws, helping to put the game away even though Toronto’s final field goal in the fourth quarter came with 7:36 remaining.
“They were better than us tonight,” Wittman said of the Raptors. “We lost it a little bit there in the third quarter.”
Wall won the Slam Dunk contest during All-Star weekend and played in the main game on Sunday along with DeRozen. Beal lost in the finals of the 3-point contest and Raptors forward Terrence Ross joined Wall in the dunk event.
Wall had plenty of energy and accuracy in the first half. He made 9 of 12 shots from the field for 19 points in the first half, yet the Wizards trailed 55-49 at halftime. Center Jonas Valanciunas scored all 10 of his points in the first half and Toronto shot 57 percent from the field.
Beal struggled, finishing with nine points on 2-of-10 shooting from the floor and Ross
scored only had two points.
The Wizards now need to figure out how to stop struggling before their playoff position fades away.
“I don’t think we’re losing confidence or thinking that the season is slipping away because we still have 29 games,” Beal said. “That’s a lot of games. The season is still up for grabs.”
NOTES: Both teams shot better than 56 percent from the field in the first half. … Raptors F Amir Johnson (ankle) returned to the lineup and came off the bench after missing the final two games before the All-Star break. … Wizards F Al Harrington participated in a full practice Sunday, his first since undergoing a knee procedure on Dec. 19. Coach Randy Wittman said the veteran is “getting closer” but did not offer a return date. …The Raptors, 9-2 at home since Jan. 1, host the series finale on Feb. 27. … Toronto returns home to face the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, the same day Washington plays the Hawks in Atlanta.
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