DeMar DeRozan canned a 3-pointer and converted a three-point play in the final three minutes Sunday night, enabling the Toronto Raptors to hold off the Charlotte Hornets 103-98 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Charlotte had cut a 13-point deficit to 88-86 with 5:11 left on a three-point play by Jeremy Lamb, but the Raptors' cornerstone backcourt of DeRozan and Kyle Lowry kept the visitors at bay.
Lowry drilled a 3 to make it 91-86 with 4:18 left. After a free throw by Kemba Walker at the 3:46 mark cut Toronto's lead to four, DeRozan checked in with a 3-pointerl with 3:21 remaining, then converted a three-point play with 1:56 left for a 97-87 margin that the Hornets couldn't overcome.
DeRozan's 19 points led six players in double figures for the Raptors, whose 45-17 record is two games clear of Boston for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Jonas Valanciunas added 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Serge Ibaka netted 17 points. Lowry tallied 14, while reserves CJ Miles and Fred VanVleet each scored 12.
Walker poured in a game-high 27 points for Charlotte, which fell 5 1/2 games behind Miami for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot with 18 games left.
Lamb and Frank Kaminsky came off the bench to score 16 and 15 points, respectively. Dwight Howard and Nicolas Batum each added 10.
Toronto built up a comfortable lead by winning the first three quarters by small margins. The Raptors took a 26-21 lead after one quarter, thanks to a 9-0 spurt early in which all the points were scored by Ibaka and Valanciunas.
A Lowry fadeaway jumper with 1:24 left in the second quarter gave Toronto its first double-digit lead at 51-41, but Charlotte was able to slice its halftime deficit to 52-43 thanks to a pullup jumper from Batum with 42.1 seconds remaining.
Howard's putback pulled the Hornets within 58-56 at the 6:58 mark of the third, but the Raptors surged again. Ibaka and Valanciunas drained back-to-back 3s to start a run that eventually led to an 82-69 advantage after three periods.
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