The Boston Celtics have been one of the league’s best fourth quarter teams most of this season.
So there was indeed a bit of irony to their 114-106 loss at Toronto, a game in which the Raptors closed out the night with a decisive 23-6 run.
- Highlights: Toronto Raptors 114, Boston Celtics 106
- Stars, studs and duds: Final six minutes 'crushed' Celtics vs. Raptors
With the loss, Boston (23-15) is now two games behind Toronto (25-13) in the Atlantic Division standings. Even more significant is that the Celtics have now lost both of their head-to-head matchups with the Raptors, with two more to play this season.
That could come into play if these two finish with an identical regular season record, which is very possible especially when you consider half of the teams in the East that made it to the playoffs finished the regular season with a 48-34 record.
But playoff position was the last thing on the Celtics mind following Tuesday’s loss, a game in which they went into having a chance to tie the Raptors record-wise and with that, move into the No. 2 spot in the East.
Toronto All-Star DeMar DeRozan took over in the second half which is when he scored 31 of his game-high 41 points which included 19 points in the third quarter which is when the Raptors swung the game’s momentum in their favor.
Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 27 points, nine coming in the fourth quarter. Boston got a nice lift off the bench from Gerald Green who had 14 points and five rebounds off the bench.
It was a sluggish start for both teams offensively in the first quarter which ended with Toronto ahead 23-18.
But the second quarter was an entirely different game for the Celtics who pulled ahead by as many as 10 points.
And like most of their success, it was far from a one or two-man show, either.
Marcus Smart, filling in for Avery Bradley (Achilles injury) for the second straight game, had nine points in the quarter along with a couple rebounds and a couple steals. He would finish with 15 points, five assists and four steals.
And off the bench, Green didn’t waste any time heating up from the field with nine points while playing all but 35 seconds in the second.
Meanwhile, the Celtics were able to keep DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry from having big quarters in the first half as each scored five points in the second quarter which was equal to what they delivered scoring-wise in the first.
At the half, Boston had a solid 55-46 lead that they increased to as many as 16 in the third quarter before the Raptors began to make their all-too-predictable surge.
Toronto’s shooters began to heat up, but didn’t cut into Boston’s lead until the latter stages of the third quarter.
Boston’s double-digit lead was down to just 80-76 with 1:06 to play as Toronto went on an 8-0 run.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens brought Thomas back into the game earlier than usual.
And Thomas didn’t waste much time, getting to the free throw line within seconds of returning to the floor as the Celtics went into the fourth quarter ahead 84-80.
But Thomas' usual fourth quarter heroics just weren't enough to withstand a strong finish by the Raptors who remain the best team in the East besides Cleveland.