TORONTO — There would be no thrilling fourth-quarter comeback for the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
Playing their fourth game without all-star guard Kyle Lowry, the Raptors dropped a 105-96 decision to Eastern Conference rival Washington Wizards to end a four-game winning streak.
And in a sombre post-game dressing room, DeMar DeRozan lamented the absence of his back-court teammate, who was recovering from Tuesday's wrist surgery.
"It's going to be a challenge for us, playing with (Lowry) throughout the whole year and now at the end of the year having news guys coming in and not having him," said DeRozan, who lingered long at his locker, head down, scrolling through his phone. "It's going to be a challenge but we've got to figure it out."
DeRozan had 24 points to top the Raptors (36-25), while Serge Ibaka had 22 points and 12 rebounds. Norm Powell finished with 17 points, Cory Joseph — starting for Lowry — had 11 points but just one assist, and Jonas Valanciunas grabbed 11 boards to go with seven points.
The Raptors had rallied from double-digit deficits in all four games of their winning streak. But mustering just 11 assists on the night — they had just three through the first three quarters — it was clear how sorely the team missed Lowry.
"That can't happen," coach Dwane Casey said of the low assists. "The ball's got to move and get in a rhythm and we were a little out of sync and I felt that carried over to the defensive end.
"Tonight was a stinker all the way around. Not just the defence, the defence started it and then it carried over to the offensive end. I thought not making baskets sapped our defensive energy and just took the wind out of us."
Bojan Bogdanovic led Washington (36-23) with 27 points.
With just 21 games left in the regular season, the Raptors are clawing for playoff position in a crowded Eastern Conference. Wednesday's game was the first of two straight against the Wizards, who Toronto trailed for third in the east by just percentage points.
The Raptors are in Washington on Friday to open a five-game road trip.
Two nights after a 92-91 comeback thriller against the Knicks in New York, the Raptors were solid through the first quarter but then promptly fell apart in the second. The Wizards, who were coming off a 112-108 win over Golden State the previous night, opened the quarter with a 25-1 run to take a 23-point lead while the Air Canada Centre capacity crowd of 19,800 sat in stunned silence.
"Just a complete let down by the second unit," Patrick Patterson said. "The best thing we can do is just flush that second quarter down the toilet and completely forget it because absolutely anything you would have thought we could do wrong we did: no talking, no communication, not rebounding, rushing shots on offence and not contesting. Everything you didn't want to do on the defensive side, we did."
The third quarter was barely better. DeRozan had eight points, the rest of the Raptors had six points combined, and the Wizards took an 82-60 lead into the fourth.
Toronto found some life in the fourth quarter, and when Powell drove to the basket for a layup with 5:13 to play, it pulled the Raptors to within 14 points. But Washington pushed back with every Toronto basket, and the Wizards were back up by 19 after a Bogdanovic three-pointer with 2:41 left to play. The arena was barely half full by the time the final buzzer sounded.
"Every time we go out there and get down, we're going to (have to) fight back to win," DeRozan said. "We can't keep doing that, it's tough on us, it's extremely exhausting. To get down that much, you've got to work that much more just to get back in the game, let alone win."
Lowry is expected to miss the rest of the regular season after having surgery on Tuesday to clean out his wrist.
"It went well," Casey said of the surgery. "I texted back and forth with Kyle last night. No complications. They're going to start working on his range of motion fairly quickly."
The Raptors virtually paced the Wizards through the first quarter. They took a 26-24 lead into the second.
But with reserves on the floor to start the second, the wheels fell off. Washington scored seemingly at will, outscoring Toronto 38-20 in the frame, and taking a 62-46 advantage into the halftime break.
Following Washington, the Raptors visit Milwaukee, New Orleans, Atlanta and Miami before returning home to host Dallas on March 13.