Toronto strengthens hold on No. 1 seed by shutting down Celtics

Toronto strengthens hold on No. 1 seed by shutting down Celtics

Toronto strengthens hold on No. 1 seed by shutting down Celtics

Even if you wave away the 2014 first-round loss to a veteran Brooklyn team, the Raptors were swept in the first round the following year and struggled mightily in 2016. Updates with new lead.

"It's a challenge that we're all looking forward to", Raptors All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan said, "what's at stake when it comes to first, and secondly, just to be able to bounce back and play and get this feeling off us". Meanwhile, rookie Jason Tatum scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half. Propelled by the second-best home record in the league, they are within sight of clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference. In addition to the four players that sat out in Boston's win over Toronto, Terry Rozier missed the game with an ankle injury; rookie Kadeem Allen made his first-ever start in Rozier's place. The 6-8, 250-pounder continually overpowered smaller players in the paint and either scored, got fouled or both en route to a nine-point quarter.

Toronto was still within 11 in the fourth when James drove the baseline, hung in the air and spun in a reverse layup while being fouled.

DeRozan led the Raptors with 16 points as Toronto earned a crucial 96-78 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. Boston's 4.8 turnover percentage was their biggest strength over Toronto, who had a rate of 14.3. Boston plays at Milwaukee tonight, and a win by the Celtics coupled with a loss by Toronto makes the distance between the top two seeds even less. Raptors center Jakob Poeltl couldn't recover in time.

"We got four guys you know from our championship team, myself, J.R. (Smith), Tristan (Thompson) and Kev (Love)". Toronto trailed by eight heading into the fourth quarter - the same deficit they had faced at halftime - despite Lowry having only five points and as many turnovers (three) as he did assists.

If the Raptors want any chance of representing the East in the Finals, they're going to have to build a head of steam capable of bulldozing through the likes of the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.

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The Cleveland Cavaliers keep winning with Jose Calderon as their starting point guard. Boston scored 80 in a January 18 loss to Philadelphia. If they hadn't, their rate would be up to win games. For those guys it means being in rhythm offensively, executing defensively and feeling good physically, but so much of it is mental.

Boston made 25 of 75 shot attempts, including 3 of 22 from 3-point range, its fewest made 3-pointers of the season. The previous meeting, Boston was running the floor and penetrating the paint continuously. Games involving the Cavaliers have a slight tendency to go over the projected point total (49.4 percent).

"We're nearly healthy and if we continue to play like we've been playing both offensively and defensively, get our star point guard back in George Hill, get our star coach back in T-Lue, then we'll see what happens", he said.

Ricky Rubio shot 10-for-15 while producing 31 points, eight assists and six rebounds in Utah's 117-110 verdict over the Lakers.

And then: "I'm gonna flip everything to Nova, y'all, you know", he said, smiling the whole time. "It might have looked like it bothered me but it didn't bother me".

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