BOSTON (CP) - DeMar DeRozan understands that a playoff berth for the Raptors has meaning beyond Toronto’s locker room.
Terrence Ross scored 24 points, Kyle Lowry 23 and the Raptors edged closer to their first playoff spot since 2008 with a 99-90 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
“Not just the franchise, the whole city of Toronto and Canada,” said DeRozan, sitting at his locker with his left foot in a bucket of ice. “I’ve been here five years and see how passionate the fans are. 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 added 20 points for Toronto, which increased its Atlantic Division lead to 2 1/2 games over Brooklyn. The Raptors can clinch a playoff spot if the New York Knicks lose at Sacramento later Wednesday.
It was Lowry’s eighth straight game of 20 or more points and helped the Raptors snap an 11-game losing streak in Boston.
“I’m not going to lie,” Lowry said. “I think everybody tonight is rooting for that Western Conference team over there.”
The Raptors are also chasing a division title. They face Boston in the back end of a home and home on Friday.
“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.”
Jared Sullinger led Boston with 26 points, going 4 of 6 from 3-point range, and Avery Bradley scored 16. Boston lost for the seventh time in eight games.
“Sully got hot and I thought even though we were really undersized we played pretty well in that time,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said.
Toronto captured its 19th road win, one off the club record set 2000-01.
Boston 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 he 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 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 3s 34 seconds apart, narrowing it to four points with just under 6 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 3s on the next two possessions to send the Raptors to the victory.
In the third quarter, Lowry nailed consecutive 3s on Toronto’s first two possessions, pushing the Raptors’ lead to 61-46. They held at least a nine-point lead for the rest of the quarter, opening it to 77-62 after Ross nailed a 3 at the buzzer.
Toronto, which blew an 11-point second-quarter lead in less than 2 minutes, held a 55-46 advantage at halftime.
NOTES: A few minutes before the opening tip-off and about 10 after the National Anthems were completed, the Celtics asked the crowd to rise for a moment of silence to honour two Boston firefighters that were killed battling a fire in the city’s Back Bay section _ about 2 miles away. Stevens praised Raptors G Lowry before the game. “(He) is playing terrific,” Stevens said. “He was arguably an All-Star earlier. He makes a lot of plays that don’t go talked about.” Sullinger had 25 points and 20 rebounds when the Celtics beat the Raptors at home on Jan. 15. He had eight boards on Wednesday.