The disparities between the two clubs coming into Friday’s game couldn’t have been more pronounced.
The Celtics hit Toronto as one of the hottest teams in the league with 19 wins in their last 26 games to put them back atop the Atlantic Division and in position to have home court advantage to start the upcoming post-season. The absence of sharpshooter Ray Allen was glaring but certainly mitigated by the insertion of blossoming defensive stopper Avery Bradley into the starting five and the recent incredible play of point guard Rajon Rondo.
With little to play for an no post-season on the horizon, the Raptors entered the game on the heels of the news that Andrea Bargnani was to be shelved for the rest of the season and Jose Calderon would be sidelined for the night. Two NBA D-Leaguers on 10-day deals would be starting with a third coming off the bench.
After a woeful offensive start that saw them shoot just 23 per cent and score 30 first-half points — a new franchise low for an opening two quarters — there was little to hint that such a signature win was in the cards.
But even then, DeMar DeRozan never doubted the potential for Friday’s 84-79 win over the Celtics for a second.
“Oh yeah, we knew we had this game in the first half,” he said post-game. “We couldn’t make our shots but we were still in the game. It was a six point game at half time and we knew if we turned it up and just started to be aggressive on both ends we could win this game and that’s what we did.”
DeRozan certainly walked the walk in the third quarter, making all six of his free throw attempts on his way to 13 of his game-high 22 points in the frame, which helped spark a 22-5 run that completely tilted the game in Toronto’s favour.
There was, of course, an inevitable Celtics counter punch in the fourth, which brought them within 78-77 with 20 seconds to play. But DeRozan went back to work by drawing two key fouls and scoring four straight points that essentially salted the game away.
Positive signs according to head coach Dwane Casey, but no grounds for complacency.
“I just told him that those free throws were huge and that’s what it’s all about going forward. It’s about closing games and making big plays down the stretch. I’ve been on him about once you make it to the rim, finish and be greedy. Don’t just be happy because you got the whistle, finish and get your and-one like their veteran players. ”
DeRozan and the Raptors now aim to build on that momentum Sunday in Atlanta, where they open an home-and-home series with the playoff-bound Hawks. Until then, here’s the best of what you had to say about Friday’s huge win.