SPORTS

Toronto Raptors rally from first-half hole to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers

02/06/2015 09:43 EST | Updated 04/08/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - The Toronto bench rode to the rescue Friday night after the Raptors dug themselves a 20-point hole in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers.

After getting spanked in Cleveland on Thursday, the Clippers administered some early pain of their own at a soldout Air Canada Centre. Toronto trailed 30-10 at one point in a woeful first quarter.

Toronto was behind 34-19 going into the second quarter with the Raptor starters accounting for just 11 points. Blake Griffin had 10 alone for the Clippers in the first quarter.

Then the second unit threw the home team a lifeline that helped turn the tide and propel Toronto to a 123-107 win.

"The whole group came in, gave us a big spark in the second quarter," said Toronto coach Dwane Casey.

The Raptors (34-17) rallied to trail by just two at the half with six-foot-nine James Johnson, who missed the last four games with a hamstring strain, contributing 12 second-quarter points in a seven-minute dunkfest off the bench.

"When he's on his game the way he was tonight, it's unbelievable," said Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who had 21 points.

"He played amazing," added DeMar DeRozan, who scored 15 of his team-leading 24 points in the second half.

Lou Williams contributed five assists in the second quarter when the Raptors made 13-of-20 shots.

Patrick Patterson also provided a lift in the second, rising to deny a trademark Griffin dunk. He was called for a foul on the play, which Casey disputed.

"It takes a lot of (cojones) to go up and do that ... Pat's a warrior," Casey said. "I love the way he competes. He sets the tone and brings that energy off the bench for us."

The Raptors went ahead for the first time, 61-59, early in the third, and then took control via a 16-2 run. DeRozan finished with nine rebounds and eight assists, combining with Lowrie for 32 points in the second half.

Casey's major complaint was the slow start.

"I don't know what to do with the starting unit but we've got to come out with the pedal to the metal and find a group that's going to come out and give us a start," he said. "But I loved the way we bounced back."

The Clippers (33-18), in the midst of a season-high eight-game road trip, suffered their third straight loss and fourth in five games.

"Give them credit, they made shots but we have to be a better defensive team than we were tonight," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

The Raptors were coming off consecutive home losses to Milwaukee and Brooklyn. They had won six straight games and seven of eight prior to that.

Sparked by Lowry's 13 points, Toronto took charge in the third and led 95-79 going into the final quarter.

Johnson finished with 16 points while Williams added 18 as seven Raptors finished in double figures. Twelve of DeRozan's points came from the free-throw line on a night when he shot six-of-16 from the field— but made other things happen.

Griffin, who had 19 points in the first half, led the Clippers with 26 while Chris Paul had 22.

The focus pre-game Friday was on Paul, under the spotlight for his Cleveland criticism of referee Lauren Holtkamp. "Last night was about a bad call. That’s all," the Clippers star said.

Toronto big man Jonas Valanciunas went scoreless in a first half that saw the Toronto bench outscore the starters 30-27. He finished with four points.

NOTES: The Clippers were without J.J. Redick (back spasms) and Hedo Turkoglu (stomach virus). DeAndre Jordan had nine points, playing with a stomach virus.

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