TORONTO (CP) — The Toronto Raptors prefer to think of this as a beginning rather than an ending.
To be continued next season.
DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points as the Raptors beat the playoff-bound Boston Celtics 114-90 in their season finale Wednesday.
The victory capped a roller-coaster season that saw Toronto stagger out to a horrible 4-19 start but win the seventh of its last eight games to finish 34-48.
“(The strong finish) gives guys some momentum going in (to the off-season), feel good about themselves, understanding why we’re telling them to work on certain things,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “It means a lot for the organization, for us, to get a good feel for what we can do when guys are tied in, in a good rhythm.”
Rudy Gay added 19 points, while Jonas Valanciunas had 18 and Alan Anderson finished with 16.
Jordan Crawford scored 16 points to top Boston (41-40). Paul Pierce had 11 first-half points, and took the second half off to rest up for the playoffs, in which the seventh-place Celtics take on the New York Knicks in the opening round. Kevin Garnett didn’t play (sore left ankle).
The Raptors drained 12 three-pointers and led for most of the night, taking a 96-70 lead into the fourth quarter in front of 17,690 Air Canada Centre fans _ about 2,000 shy of a sellout.
By the time Landry Fields went up for a dunk with two minutes left that put Toronto up by 27, both teams had their reserves on the floor and many fans had already left the building.
The Raptors had been mathematically eliminated two weeks earlier, sending them into the off-season without a playoff appearance for the fifth consecutive year.
Gay, acquired in the mid-season trade that sent Jose Calderon to Detroit, addressed the crowd before the game thanking fans for their support.
“Wait for next year,” Gay told them.
The night was billed as “Fanapalooza,” and cheerleaders chucked T-shirts up into the crowd and handed out everything from signed jerseys to gas vouchers _ small reward for a loyal fan base that saw Toronto’s season go off the rails virtually from opening night.
The Raptors stumbled with the second worst start in the NBA, digging themselves a hole so deep that even their 30-29 finish couldn’t salvage the season.
“We had a disappointing year,” Casey said before the game. “Our start was horrendous, not acceptable, we’ve got to get off to a good start and figure it out quicker. That was the difference in the season.”
“After that (start), in the Eastern Conference we were No. 6.”
Contributing to the bad beginning, Casey pointed out that newcomers Lowry and Valanciunas missed training camp, Valanciunas’s calf injury lasting through the pre-season.
“Woulda coulda shoulda,” he said.
The Celtics wore a strip of black on their jerseys in their first game since Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured more than 170. Both teams gathered at centre court, and the fans stood for a moment of silence.
The bright red Raptors sign that rings the inside of the Air Canada Centre was green, with the words “Tonight, we are all Boston fans.”
Gay scored 12 points in the first quarter, his pull-up three-pointer with 3:19 left putting Toronto up by seven. Crawford threw up a 40-footer at the buzzer and the Celtics pulled to within 31-30 to end the frame.
The Raptors outscored Boston 28-19 in the second, going up by 14 with a minute left before taking a 59-49 lead into the dressing room at halftime
A three by John Lucas stretched the Raptors’ lead to 27 points late in the third and they led by 26 with a quarter left.