DeMar DeRozan scored a team-high 16 points as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Boston Celtics 96-78 on Wednesday as the battle for the NBA’s Eastern Conference supremacy heads down to the wire.
Every Raptors player but one recorded at least two points and the Raptors crushed the Celtics to equal their franchise record in wins for the season while extending their lead atop the standings.
The Raptors now have a three-game cushion over the Celtics for first place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.
“I am very confident we can get it done. We got a great opportunity but we still got to go ahead, be professional, and finish games out,” said all-star guard Kyle Lowry.
Lowry delivered 13 points, five rebounds and five assists as the Raptors improved to 56-22 on the season. It was Lowry’s highest scoring outing in the past four games and even more importantly it halted the team’s two-game losing skid.
Fred VanVleet came off the bench for 15 points while Delon Wright had eight points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Marcus Morris scored 21 points for the Celtics, who dropped to 53-25.
With a win on Wednesday, Boston would have won the tie-breaker between the two teams and moved to just a game back of Toronto for first in the conference.
Terry Rozier had two points and nine rebounds in his return to the Celtics lineup as Boston was held to a season low in points. Rozier sat out Tuesday’s 106-102 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks with a left ankle sprain.
The Raptors had five losses in their past 10 heading into the contest, including a 110-90 defeat in Boston on Sunday.
In Detroit, JJ Redick scored 25 points as the Philadelphia 76ers won their 12th straight game with a 115-108 win over Detroit, eliminating the Pistons from the playoff race.
Eastern playoff field set
The Sixers are rolling along without star Joel Embiid who missed a fourth straight game because of a concussion and surgery to repair a facial fracture.
“Everyone in this room has stepped up since Joel went down, and we know we’re capable of winning games without him,” Australian guard Ben Simmons said.
“We told him to get ready for the playoffs and that we’ll take care of everything else. Now we’re showing that we can do that.”
The Pistons had their five-game winning streak snapped, and their defeat clinched a postseason spot for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Eastern Conference playoff field is now set, although the actual matchups are still being determined.
Anthony Tolliver scored 25 points for the Pistons. Detroit was without forward Blake Griffin, who missed his fourth straight game because of a sore ankle.
Elsewhere, Kelly Olynyk scored 19 points and the Miami Heat beat the Atlanta Hawks 115-86, capping a sweep of back-to-back games between Southeast Division rivals.