Raptors close in on playoff berth
BOSTON—DeMar DeRozan understands that a playoff berth for the Raptors has meaning beyond Toronto’s locker-room.
Terrence Ross scored 24 points, and Kyle Lowry added 23, as the Raptors edged closer to their first playoff spot since 2008 with a 99-90 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
“I’ve been here five years and see how passionate the fans are,” he noted.
“It definitely means a lot. We feed off them, the energy they bring every single night.
“That would be great for the city and we have to take advantage of the opportunity,” DeRozan stressed.
DeRozan added 20 points for Toronto, which increased its Atlantic Division lead to 2.5 games over Brooklyn.
The Raptors could have clinched a playoff spot if the Knicks lost at Sacramento later yesterday, but New York beat the Kings 107-99.
“I’m not going to lie,” Lowry said.
“I think everybody tonight is rooting for that Western Conference team over there.”
It was Lowry’s eighth-straight game of 20 or more points, and helped the Raptors snap an 11-game losing streak in Boston.
The Raptors face Boston in the back end of a home-and-home tomorrow night.
“We can’t be satisfied just making the playoffs,” DeRozan said. “We could go out there and play four games and be home.
“We’ve worked too hard to get to this point just to slow down and pace ourselves.
“We’ve got a long, long way to go,” he warned.
Jared Sullinger led Boston with 26 points—going 4-of-6 from three-point range—while Avery Bradley scored 16.
Boston lost for the seventh time in eight games.
“Sully got hot and I thought even though we were really under-sized we played pretty well in that time,” noted Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens.
Toronto, meanwhile, captured its 19th road win—one off the club record set 2000-01.
Celtics’ guard Rajon Rondo was cut on the forehead midway into the third quarter and received nine stitches.
He returned to the bench early in the fourth quarter with a bandage that ran from the bridge of his nose straight up to his forehead, and re-entered the game with 8:05 to play.
He finished with 15 assists and nine points.
“I think it obviously says a lot,” Stevens said. “He [Rondo] wants to play and I think the most important part about it is he came back in and guarded DeRozan.
“He went after it and I think he did a pretty good job on him.”
The Raptors had opened a 79-64 lead early the fourth quarter, but Boston went on a 9-0 run.
Toronto pushed it back to 85-75 before Sullinger nailed consecutive threes 34 seconds apart—narrowing it to four points with just under six minutes to play.
“I saw that Rondo went down so I saw that we needed production, so I took it upon myself and just tried to get the best shots possible,” Sullinger said.
Chris Johnson’s basket—on an officials’ reviewed goaltending call—closed it to 93-90 with 1:49 left.
But Lowry and Ross hit consecutive threes on the next two possessions to send the Raptors to the victory.
Elsewhere in the NBA, Minnesota beat Atlanta 107-83, Phoenix downed Washington 99-93, Charlotte topped Brooklyn 116-111 (OT), Cleveland nipped Detroit 97-96, and New Orleans edged the L.A. Clippers 98-96.
Indiana shaded Miami 84-83, San Antonio beat Denver 108-103, and Memphis edged Utah 89-87.