Published On: Wed, Mar 14th, 2018

Raptors win 50th for third straight year, set their sets on 60

If it was easy, it wouldn’t be as much fun.

Pushed to the limits by a hard-playing Brooklyn Nets team, the Toronto Raptors escaped the Barclays Center with a 116-102 victory on Tuesday night that was truly well earned.

The Raptors overcame a torrid Nets start to reach the 50-win plateau for the third straight season. They ran their current win streak to nine games and moved four full games ahead of the second-place Boston Celtics in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

Fred VanVleet sparked a 15-0 Raptors run in the third quarter that got them back in the game, and C.J. Miles made three three-pointers in the fourth quarter as Toronto rallied for a seventh straight road win. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry sparked a 9-0 run that gave Toronto a 12-point lead with two minutes left and sealed the victory.

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And now that the Raptors have reached 50 wins at the earliest point in any season, they have their sights on 60, which would require a 10-5 end to the regular season.

DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, left, sparked a 9-0 run that gave Toronto a 12-point lead with two minutes left and sealed the victory.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, left, sparked a 9-0 run that gave Toronto a 12-point lead with two minutes left and sealed the victory.  (Kathy Willens / The Associated Press)

“It’s never been done (in Toronto),” DeMar DeRozan said earlier. “Not many people get the opportunity to win 60-plus games. We came close a couple years ago, that’s big.

“On top of that, you’ve got to prove why you’re a 60-win team. As long as you continue to do what we need to do, hopefully we can get there.”

Jonas Valanciunas, dominating a small-ball Nets lineup, had 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead Toronto while DeRozan had 15 and Lowry added 11 points and 11 assists.

Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell put on an astonishing shooting display in the first quarter, making seven straight three-pointers and scoring 24 points in the first eight minutes of the game. The Nets made two other threes in the first and the nine were the most ever given up in a quarter to a Toronto opponent.

Russell, who didn’t make another three the rest of the night, finished with 32 points.

Despite that hot start — Brooklyn scored 40 points in the first quarter — the Raptors bench pulled Toronto into a one-point lead in the second quarter before the starters returned and played them in a 67-57 halftime deficit.

The Nets, who take the second most three-pointers per game in the league, made no secret of how they wanted to play, starting a small lineup with nominal small forward Dante Cunningham starting at centre.

And as well as Toronto did running the Houston Rockets off the three-point line and staying with shooters on Friday, they failed miserably trying to have the same discipline on Tuesday.

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Raptors win 50th for third straight year, set their sets on 60