BOSTON — We're nearing the end of the regular season and the Toronto Raptors find themselves in unfamiliar territory - firmly entrenched in the playoff picture.
And the Celtics?
Not so much.
The roles of these two franchises have indeed been reversed this season as the Raptors proved their playoff mettle with a solid 99-90 victory over the Celtics.
Boston may not be headed to the postseason, but they continue to give most of their playoff-bound foes problems.
After trailing by as many as 15, Boston cut Toronto's lead to as little as three in the fourth quarter following a 3-point barrage by Jared Sullinger, who finished with 26 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
To see Sullinger have a big game against the Raptors didn't come as a total shock. On Jan. 15, he had 25 points and a career-high 20 rebounds against the Raptors.
But a 3-pointer by should-have-been All-Star Kyle Lowry followed by a 3-pointer from Terrence Ross gave the Raptors a 99-90 lead with 1:03 to play and essentially sealed it.
Toronto All-Star DeMar DeRozan continued his strong play this season with 20 points and seven rebounds on Wednesday.
The Raptors also got a strong game from Lowry who finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
As for the Celtics, as much as they want to continue working towards improved execution, they are even more about evaluating both young and not-so-young talent.
That's why for players such as Chris Johnson, every minute on the floor is priceless.
Johnson, who originally came to the Celtics via a 10-day contract and has since earned a multi-year deal with Boston, was among the more impressive Celtics on Wednesday.
He came off the Boston bench and scored 13 points, seven in the second quarter, in addition to blocking a DeRozan shot.
And there was of course Rajon Rondo doing what Rajon Rondo does best - racking up the assists.
Rondo finished with nine points and 15 assists, just a point short of what would have been his 10th double-double this season.
But even with Rondo's strong game - he either scored or assisted on Boston's first 18 points scored - it wasn't enough to handle a Toronto team that's about as balanced a squad as you'll find in the East that's not in Indiana or South Beach.
If it wasn't DeRozan, Lowry or Terrence Ross (team-high 24 points) hurting Boston from the perimeter, it was Jonas Valanciunas (15 points, 14 rebounds) working over the Celtics around the basket.
While the Celtics (23-48) speak of continuing to compete and win a few games to close out the season, that task becomes increasing tougher to do because of the caliber of opponents left on the docket.
They're not just playing teams that have had their number this season. The teams they are facing for the most part are battling for playoff position, which means most of these games will be against teams looking to finish strong and play well.
And to some degree puts the Celtics in matchups with something great at stake, the kind of games they're used to playing this late in the season.