Raptors Beat Celtics To Close In On Top Seed In Eastern Conference
By IAN HARRISON
TORONTO (AP) – DeMar DeRozan scored 16 points, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka each had 15 and the Toronto Raptors moved closer to clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference by beating the Boston Celtics 96-78 on Wednesday night.
Toronto increased its lead over second-place Boston to three games. Both teams have four games remaining.
Kyle Lowry scored 13 points for the Raptors, who earned a split in the season series with the Celtics and clinched the tiebreaker over Boston, based on each team’s record in conference play. Toronto is 37-11 against the East, while Boston is 31-17.
With its 56th win of the season, Toronto matched the franchise record set in 2015-16.
Delon Wright had eight points, eight assists and nine rebounds for the Raptors, who entered having lost five of their previous eight, including the past two. Toronto lost at Boston on Saturday and again at Cleveland on Tuesday.
Marcus Morris scored 21 points, Greg Monroe had 17 and Al Horford 16 for Boston, who were held to their lowest point total of the season. The Celtics scored 80 in a Jan. 18 loss to Philadelphia.
The Celtics shot 3 for 22 from 3-point range, their fewest made 3-pointers of the season. Boston’s previous low was six, set twice.
The Celtics lost Tuesday in Milwaukee and have dropped consecutive games after winning six in a row.
Terry Rozier started for Boston after sitting out Tuesday because of a sprained left ankle. He scored two points in 28 minutes and shot 1 of 9.
Jaylen Brown and Monroe each scored five points in the first as Boston led 20-14 after one. Toronto made six of 23 attempts in the opening quarter, going 2 of 11 from 3-point range, and didn’t score over the final 3:29 in its lowest-scoring first quarter of the season.
Boston made nine turnovers in the second, leading to 17 points for Toronto, as the Raptors rallied behind six points from Wright to lead 43-33 at halftime. The Celtics had more turnovers in the first half (14) than made baskets (13).
After making eight of 19 field goal attempts in the first quarter, Boston shot 5 for 18 in the second and 5 for 19 in the third. DeRozan scored eight points in the third as Toronto took a 67-53 lead into the fourth.
Celtics: Rozier led Boston with nine rebounds. … G Shane Larkin (illness) did not travel to Toronto. Larkin has missed three straight games. … Boston finished with 17 turnovers, three shy of its season-worst. Toronto scored 29 points off turnovers.
Raptors: Toronto avoided its first three-game losing streak since Feb. 8-14, 2017. … The Raptors outscored the Celtics 54-34 on points in the paint. … The home team won all four meetings in the series this season.
Celtics: Host Chicago on Friday. Boston has won five straight home games against the Bulls.
Raptors: Host Indiana on Friday. Toronto has won eight straight home games against the Pacers.
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