TORONTO - By the end of Thursday's three hour-and 32-minute, triple-overtime marathon, the longest game in franchise history, the Toronto Raptors had run out of gas while nearly running out of active bodies.
Two of the Raptors' starters, along with their sixth man, had fouled out after gutting out a couple of extra periods playing hurt. One starter was absent, having left for the locker room earlier in the game with an injury and another was mired in one of the worst games in his professional career.
"I feel like if we would have had everybody in the game, we probably would have come up with the win," said Amir Johnson, who - playing on a couple of sore ankles - picked up his sixth foul late in the first overtime, as his team went on to fall 132-129 to the Washington Wizards at home.
Patrick Patterson was whistled for his sixth minutes earlier, while Kyle Lowry - hobbling on an ankle he tweaked going in for a potential game-winning drive at the end of regulation - fouled out two minutes before the night came to a merciful end.
Terrence Ross, who scored a team-high 11 points in the first half, did not return for the second after he, too, suffered an ankle injury.
As a team, the Raptors, until very late in the fourth, were outworked in a game that seemed to mean more to the visiting Wizards, losers of three straight to Toronto this season, than it did to the home team. Overall, Washington grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, registered 80 points in the paint, bested the Raptors 21-6 in second-chance points and held a 10-point edge in fast break scoring.
Still, the Raptors were right there with a chance to steal a victory they probably didn't deserve at the end of regulation and as the clock expired to close the first OT period.
"I like the way we battled," said coach Dwane Casey, "even through the foul trouble and also with injuries."
"Coach told us before the game it's going to be a playoff-atmosphere game," said DeMar DeRozan, the lone starter on the floor when the Wizards finally began to pull away in the third OT. "That's what it was. We fought to the end, we just couldn't get no stops in overtime."
DeRozan led the Raptors with 34 points in 57 minutes. Lowry logged 54 minutes, 13 in extra time, despite coming down awkwardly on his ankle after just missing the go-ahead layup ahead of the fourth-quarter buzzer. Again, the ball was in the hands of the Raptors' point guard in a similar situation five minutes later when the trailing John Wall blocked his runner in the lane.
"He stayed in the game, but he turned his ankle real bad on that play," Casey said. "I thought Kyle still battled on defence and I thought he was huge for us."
How was his ankle feeling after the game?
"It's great," Lowry said with a smirk on his face, withholding - not surprisingly - any pain from the hoard of media.
"A game like this, the bumps and bruises hurt a little bit more," said Johnson, who had 16 points and nine rebounds in 42 minutes, "especially when you come up short and there were so many times we could have ended the game and won the game. It was a tough loss."
“We wanted to win the game," Lowry added after just missing out on a triple-double with 18 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. "At the end of the day, we go out there and try to win every single night. We don't try to just go out there and compete and say, ‘Oh, we gave it our best shot.' We go out there and try to win every single game."
Three-point shooting kept Toronto in striking distance as the Raptors knocked down 12 of their 30 attempts from long range, including four from Greivis Vasquez, who stepped up in Ross's stead. Vasquez recorded a season-high 26 points to go along with eight assists in 38 minutes off the bench, his most productive game since coming over in the December trade from Sacramento.
With the win, the fifth-place Wizards avoided the season-series sweep with Toronto and pulled within two games of the Raptors for the third seed in the East.
Although it was a long night for everyone involved - Casey ended up using all 13 players available to him - it couldn't have ended soon enough for Jonas Valanciunas, who had a game to forget.
Once Patterson and Johnson fouled out in OT, Casey reluctantly went back to Valanciunas, though he had been sitting on the bench since late in the third quarter. Understandably, the 21-year-old was out of rhythm and lacking in the confidence department. It showed.
The sophomore had difficulty keeping up with Marcin Gortat - who scored a career-best 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, seven of them offensive - and negated one of his own team's buckets on an offensive goaltending call. Casey rotated in the likes of Tyler Hansbrough and Chuck Hayes, Steve Novak and Landry Fields - the three had not played more than a few seconds until OT - when it became apparent the Raptors' starting centre was causing more harm than good.
Although Casey wouldn't point the finger at the young seven-footer, given the length of time he spent on the bench before re-entering, "it wasn't fair to Jonas," he said, Valanciunas was far more critical of himself after the loss.
"I feel really sad," he said with his head down. "We've got to learn from [our] mistakes. I feel really bad right now. I could do a much better job than what I did. I'm going to watch the film, learn from it to not repeat it next game."
Luckily, the Raptors will have a couple of days off to rest, recuperate and regroup before hosting the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, their only game in the next seven days.
"We just go over the mistakes we made on film [and] clean them up," Johnson said. "It just makes you realize how much talent we have on this team, what we can do."
"[We're] going to go over film, rest our bodies [and] come back strong."