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Raptors down Grizzlies behind Valanciunas’s season-high 23 points

Toronto Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas dunks against the Memphis Grizzlies at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on March 14, 2014.

Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports

The Toronto Raptors scored 12 straight points late in the fourth quarter to break open a tied game on the way to a comfortable 99-86 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at Air Canada Centre Friday night.

Jonas Valanciunas paced the Raptors with 23 points while Kyle Lowry picked up a double-double with 22 points and 12 assists.

Greivis Vasquez played a huge role off the bench, scoring 17 points before an enthusiastic crowd of 18,465.

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Vasquez, who scored five points in 20 seconds to break an 80-80 tie, fired a cross-court pass to DeMar DeRozan who hit a three-point jumper to widen the Raptors lead to 10 points with 3:13 to go.

The Raptors (37-27) outscored Memphis 19-6 down the stretch to win their second straight game.

DeRozan had 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter.

Zach Randolph had 16 points and eight assists to lead the Grizzlies (38-27), who lost for the first time in five starts.

The game had a playoff feel most of the night. The defences were stiff, every shot was contested and momentum swung repeatedly. The lead changed eight times and there were 10 ties.

The Raptors led 71-67 after a third quarter that saw the lead change five times. The Grizzlies were up by as many as four points in the period and Toronto had a six-point edge but neither team could pull away.

Toronto went on a 17-4 run over the final 4:41 of the first half to take a 47-44 advantage into the break.

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Vasquez poured in a team-high 12 points, doled out three assists and grabbed three rebounds in the second quarter to pace the Raptors, who trailed by as many as nine points in the first half.

Valanciunas finished off a Vasquez pass with an uncontested, two-handed dunk at the buzzer to lift the fans out of their seats. The Raptors centre had a game-high 14 points at halftime.

While the Raptors improved the lopsided statistics down low as the first half wound down, the Grizzlies still enjoyed a 28-20 edge in points in the paint and 14-6 in second-chance points at the intermission.

As has happened so often this season, the Raptors started slow, trailling 24-19 after a quarter.

Neither team put on a shooting clinic over the first 12 minutes, with Memphis scoring 41 per cent from the field, and Toronto scoring 39 per cent. But the difference was second-chance points, where the Grizzlies led 10-0.

The Raptors wrap up their three-game homestand on Sunday afternoon against the Phoenix Suns before visiting the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday and the Pelicans in New Orleans on Wednesday.

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