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Raptors beat Magic for fifth straight win; lose Valanciunas

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The Canadian Press
12/22/2012 1:48:00 AM
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TORONTO -- Five consecutive victories isn't quite enough to make Dwane Casey breathe easy.

DeMar DeRozan poured in 17 points as the Toronto Raptors stretched their winning streak to five games with a 93-90 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday.

Asked how he'll guard against overconfidence in the locker-room, Casey chuckled.

"We're 9-and-19, there is no overconfidence in that room or in the coaches room," the Raptors coach said. "We still have a lot of work to do. We're not satisfied, we're still a work in progress, we're happy about five in a row, but we haven't gone anywhere."

Jose Calderon added 13 points and nine assists for the Raptors (9-19), while Terrence Ross had 13 points, and Ed Davis, Alan Anderson, and Amir Johnson all finished with 10 apiece.

Arron Afflalo had 26 points to lead the Magic (12-14), who lost for the first time in five games. Nikola Vucevic finished with 16.

The winning streak is their longest since the Raptors won five straight in January 2010. The Raptors joined the Argonauts as the only Toronto sports teams to win five in a row in 2012.

The Argos won their final two regular-season games and all three playoff games en route to capturing the Grey Cup. The Blue Jays had four, four-game win streaks, and the Maple Leafs one.

Friday's victory wasn't particularly pretty as the two teams played three sloppy quarters, the Raptors taking a 71-62 lead into the fourth.

Ross injected some much-needed excitement into the game during a half-minute span midway through the final frame. The Raptors rookie first drained a three-pointer, then stole the ball off Jameer Nelson on Orlando's next possession, finishing with a spectacular windmill dunk that brought the festive Air Canada Centre crowd of 18,391 fans to its feet.

"I was thinking. . . 'Make sure you're going to make it, because if you miss it, it's going to be embarrassing,"' Ross said.

The Raptors nearly coughed up the victory in the dying minutes, allowing the Magic to pull within a point on a three-pointer by Nelson with 56 seconds left.

Johnson, debuting a new 'do -- a dyed-red Raptors claw logo shaved into the back of his head -- sunk a pair of free throws with 43 seconds left to make it a three-point game.

Ross grabbed a key steal with 31 seconds left, DeRozan missed on a jumper, but J.J. Redick then fired up a three-pointer that clanged off the rim and gave Toronto the victory.

"It's learning to execute but we found a way to win, that's the positive," Casey said. "We found a way to win in a tough game, against a very gritty, grimy team but we grinded it out."

The coach had high praise for Ross's defensive game.

"I was really proud of him, he's guarding one of the best pure shooters in Redick, and Afflalo," Casey said. "I was scared every time Redick was over in the corner, I was holding my breath. He's one of the best actors in the league, he's acting like he's not doing anything and then he goes from zero to 100 in no time flat."

The Raptors played their fifth straight game minus injured Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry, but have played their best basketball of the season without the two starters.

They lost Jonas Valanciunas midway through the first quarter when the rookie broke the ring finger on his right hand. Valanciunas was battling for a loose ball under the basket when he fell. He was favouring the hand when he got up and X-rays revealed the break.

"Very unfortunate, a young kid, growing every time he walked on the floor. Now he's set back with a broken hand," Casey said.

Canada's Andrew Nicholson made his first career start, in place of Orlando forward Glen Davis, who's expected to be out six weeks with a sprained shoulder he suffered in Washington on Wednesday.

Nicholson finished with six points and four rebounds in just under 20 minutes.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has varied Nicholson's playing time in his rookie season.

"It's a long year, 82 games for a guy from St. Bonnie," Vaughn said of the Mississauga, Ont., native. "So some days as a coach I have to see how he's feeling. We ask a lot of him. He gets to the gym early, he stays after, he's trying to be the best professional he can be.

"Sometimes as a coach I've got to sense how tired is Andrew Nicholson and is he getting overwhelmed? I have to look at those things."

Johnson's daring hairdo, meanwhile, drew the attention of fans and television cameras all game.

"That's team spirit right there," he told reporters after Friday morning's shootaround. "I was just thinking about doing something when I was sitting around the house."

Casey isn't a big fan of the new look.

"If you do that, you better be the baddest man in the paint," the coach said. "You're saying 'look at me.' It's not something I condone but Amir is his own man."

Both teams started off at a pedestrian pace in a sloppy opening first quarter. Toronto led 20-15 to end the first -- the lowest an opponent has scored in a quarter this season.

The second quarter wasn't any prettier as Toronto shot just 29 per cent from the field. Still, the Raptors took an 11-point lead on a three-pointer by Linas Kleiza with five minutes left. The Magic ended the half on a 15-7 run to cut the Raptors' lead to 42-39 at halftime.

The Raptors outscored the Magic 29-23 in the third and led 71-62 with a quarter left to play.

NOTES: The Raptors don't play again until Boxing Day, when they meet the Spurs in San Antonio. . . Toronto had dropped three straight to the Magic before beating them 97-86 last month.

Raptors celebrate (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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