Final, Raptors win 105-103: Once again, a furious fourth-quarter rally falls short for the Boston Celtics against the Toronto Raptors.
Jerryd Bayless was nearly the hero this time, erupting for 14 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, but the Celtics (23-49) couldn’t avoid another loss. That’s eight losses in nine games, for those keeping score at home.
It’s also a playoff-clinching victory for the Raptors (41-31), ending the longest postseason drought in the NBA. DeMar DeRozan tallied 30 points for Toronto, which went cold in the final quarter.
Jeff Green scored 16 points while Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger each finished with 11. Rondo added eight assists and Sully nabbed nine rebounds as well.
Fourth quarter, :07.1, Raptors 105-103: Here we go. Lowry let the clock run down, drove to the hoop and shot a layup — and missed.
But Amir Johnson was there to clean up the mess and the Celtics will have one last chance to tie or win the game.
Fourth quarter, :28, game tied 103-103: It can’t be overstated how smart a player Rondo is. He drove and hit a layup to tie the game, but it wasn’t just that. He also left enough time on the clock to ensure the Celtics will get another chance, no matter what the Raptors do, as long as the Celtics rebound.
Fourth quarter, :33.5, Raptors 103-101: DeRozan is just tough. Immediately after Green chased him down to block his fastbreak layup attempt out of bounds — a fast break made possible by Green’s ill-advised fadeaway jumper, by the way — DeRozan drains a fallaway jumper that barely moved the net.
Fourth quarter, 1:14, game tied 101-101: Olynyk’s having a rough couple of minutes. He was caught for an illegal screen, nixing a Boston possession, then send Greivis Vasquez to the foul line on what looked like a legal up-and-down defensive play.
That’s the downside of riding a rookie reserve, even if he’s playing well. The referees are still going to treat him like a rookie.
Fourth quarter, 3:07, Celtics 101-97: Dwane Casey’s crew is wondering what in the world just happened.
Jerryd Bayless hits a three and the Celtics have the lead, stretching to four points on a nice high-low pass from Sully to Olynyk. Bayless has 14 points in the quarter. He’s kind of feeling it.
The Raptors came close to giving it away Wednesday but came together down the stretch. They’ll try to repeat the feat again.
Fourth quarter, 6:49, Raptors 95-94: Hold on just one minute. Your customary fourth-quarter Celtics comeback against the Raptors is in progress.
Phil Pressey swiped a steal and found Kelly Olynyk for a layup as Boston’s run to begin the fourth quarter stretched to 21-10. Again, no Raptor other than DeRozan has scored yet in the quarter.
Fourth quarter, 8:27, Raptors 93-86: Yeah, DeRozan isn’t interested on keeping things interesting anymore.
DeRozan’s scored a quick eight points to open the fourth quarter, single-handedly keeping the Celtics at bay. The Celtics have outscored Raptors Not Named DeMar 13-0 since the start of the quarter and have cut the deficit to seven.
But DeRozan’s hot, perhaps hot enough to fend off Boston on his own.
End of third quarter, Raptors 85-73: Ross, DeRozan and the Raps aren’t really running away from the Celtics. They’re just sort of walking away.
The Raptors shot just 50 percent in the third quarter, below their shooting percentage for the game, but they were just efficient enough to keep the sputtering Celtics fighting with themselves. DeRozan cruised to 12 points in the frame.
Third quarter, 5:30, Raptors 73-66: An underrated part of why the Rudy Gay trade made the Raptors better isn’t just because it gave the ball more to DeRozan, or that Gay had some sort of magical anti-winning gene. It also had a lot to do with the opportunities it opened up for Ross.
Ross is having a strong opening to the second half, pushing his way up to 17 points to lead all scorers.
Lowry, who turned his ankle on Bradley’s foot after attempting a 3-pointer earlier in the game, doesn’t look to be completely confident in his ankle yet. In the meantime, Ross and DeRozan are doing a fine job of picking up the slack.
Halftime, Raptors 56-53: It’s been nip-and-tuck for the last four minutes, thanks to Rondo, but the Celtics just don’t seem to have that winning look tonight.
It took three out of five Celtics a laughably long time to get back on defense, then Bradley simply watched Tyler Hansbrough float in for a putback after a Humphries block. Right now, the Celtics are shooting well — 53 percent from the field — but not much else.
Green and Valanciunas each has 12 points to lead in the scoring department. Rondo’s been driving and dishing, en route to six assists, but there’s a lot to be desired with the pep in the Celtics’ step — or lack thereof.
Second quarter, 2:34, Raptors 50-49: In case you forgot, Rajon Rondo can ball a little bit. He’s gotten a bit more active at both ends this time through, and tossed a perfect bounce pass to Kris Humphries on the break for a dunk.
For a look at the dish and dunk, check out the GIF in the tweet below.
Rondo to Humphries - twitpic.com/dznnjb—
Jay O (@MrTrpleDouble10) March 29, 2014
If Rondo keeps playing like this, the Celtics will always have a chance, just like they did in their last matchup with the Raptors.
Second quarter, 5:28, Raptors 47-41: Wing threes are keeping the Celtics in the hunt at the moment, but we’re not sure that’s a sustainable strategy.
Jared Sullinger and Green drained triples from about the same spot, helping the Celtics stay within six of the Raps. But DeMar DeRozan, who was quiet in the first quarter, looks like he might be starting to wake up. DeRozan swooped to the hoop for an athletic layup, giving him six points in the game.
Second quarter, 8:44, Raptors 39-33: Chris Johnson, tireless bundle of energy, has come in to inject some life into the Celtics. So far, it’s backfired.
Johnson has missed a 3-pointer and been called for two fouls in his first six minutes on the court. The Celtics’ deficit hasn’t gotten any smaller and the Raptors’ march to the free throw line probably isn’t ending soon.
Still, there are fouls from hustle and fouls from poor defensive effort. Johnson’s are the former. Chances are Celtics coach Brad Stevens will take those, if he has to make a choice.
End of first quarter, Raptors 32-26: It’s tough not to get a “here we go again” feeling.
After their cold start, the Raptors are back above 50 percent from the field — well above it, in fact. They are 11-for-19 from the floor and 9-for-9 from the foul line. Valanciunas is already in double figures, with 10 points, while Ross is right there with nine.
Brandon Bass is tied with Bradley for the Celtics’ scoring high, with six points each, but the Raps took control toward the end of the first quarter. They have a 7-0 advantage in fastbreak points and a 16-12 advantage in the paint.
And, remember, they started off not being able to throw a rock in the ocean.
First quarter, 2:44, game tied 20-20: It figured the Raptors’ cold shooting wouldn’t last long if they kept playing as hard as they were.
Since their 1-for-6 start, the Raptors have gone 7-for-8 and have pulled even. Chuck Hayes and Jonas Valanciunas have given Toronto a strong presence around the rim, while the Celtics’ shots are gradually extending farther away from the hoop.
First quarter, 7:47, Celtics 11-4: This game is off to a weird start. The Raptors seem to be more aggressive and to be running harder, but they’re still losing.
It would help them if they hit some shots, obviously.
The Raptors have missed six of their first seven shots, including a flubbed dunk by Amir Johnson. Terrence Ross has their only basket and DeMar DeRozan accounted for the other two points with free throws.
But for now, the Celtics are hitting shots, and that’s what matters. Avery Bradley leads the way with six points and Jeff Green has been in a scoring state of mind, taking four of Boston’s first eight shots.
5:30 p.m.: It’s been an on-again, off-again series for the Celtics and Raptors this season. Through their first three games, the teams have alternated victories. The Celtics can only hope that holds tonight.
The Celtics, losers of seven of their last eight, travel to Toronto for the second end of a home-and-home set. The Raptors, of course, are coming off a 99-90 victory at TD Garden on Wednesday, so the Celtics have revenge on their minds.
“We know we didn’t play well (Wednesday) in the first two quarters and that resulted in a losss,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley said. “Next game, I feel like if we play a complete game, we have a chance to win.”
The Celtics dropped their regular-season opener in Toronto, then earned a victory when the Raptors visited Boston on Jan. 15. At the time, the win snapped a nine-game skid for the Celts, but they didn’t gain much momentum; they went on to lose seven of their next eight thereafter.
8 a.m. ET: Hey, look who it is again.
Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors welcome the Boston Celtics on Friday for the second leg of a rare home-and-home set. The Raptors took round one Wednesday, 99-90, despite a machine-like performance by Rajon Rondo and a spirited shooting effort by Jared Sullinger for the Celtics (23-48).
The Raptors (40-31) are in a bitter battle for a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They are effectively tied with the Chicago Bulls, though they hold the tiebreaker, and are just two games up on the Brooklyn Nets in the loss column. It’s not a small matter of getting third place over fourth, either — No. 3 most likely will face the Washington Wizards or Charlotte Bobcats in the first round, while No. 4 would face Chicago or Brooklyn. We shouldn’t have to tell you the Wizards or Bobcats would be the preferred matchup.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m.