Facing the possibility of matching their longest losing streak of the season has the Boston Celtics feeling a sense of urgency.
The Celtics try to snap their three-game skid Friday night when they face the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors for the first of two meetings in under a week.
Boston (39-29) is in good position to reach the playoffs for a second consecutive season, sitting five games clear of the cutoff. Despite that, the Celtics are feeling pressure after falling 130-109 to Oklahoma City on Wednesday in their most lopsided home defeat of the season. Their losing streak follows a 7-2 stretch, during which they averaged 110.7 points.
“We gotta win,” guard Isaiah Thomas told the team's official website after scoring 29 points. “The playoff picture – not saying we're not going to make the playoffs, but – it's close, so Toronto is another test for us. We gotta be mature about the situation and just try to get a win.”
Boston has only won three of its last 11 meetings with the Raptors (46-21), dropping five of six at Toronto after a 115-109 loss on Jan. 20. The Celtics gave up 55.4 percent from the field in one of their worst defensive efforts of the season.
Thomas has continued to excel on the opposite end, averaging 27.3 points on 49.2 percent shooting in his last seven games.
With a 7 1/2-game lead over Boston, Toronto is nearing a third straight Atlantic title but is more concerned with closing the two-game deficit on Cleveland for the conference lead.
Toronto has won 11 of its last 14 games after beating Indiana 101-94 in overtime Thursday, with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry scoring 28 points apiece.
“We understand that someone on our team is eventually going to get hot late in the game,” DeRozan said. “I started to hit some shots and then Kyle got going.”
DeRozan is averaging 29.5 points over the last eight games, and Lowry is scoring 28.7 over the last three while hitting 10 of 22 from 3-point range.
“We know that those guys are going to make tough shots,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley said. “We just have to try to make every possession hard on them and try to take the supporting cast out. It's the same mindset as (Wednesday's) game, and hopefully they're not making every shot too.”
DeRozan has scored 29.6 per game in his last five against Boston, including 34 on 13-of-25 shooting in January.
Lowry hasn't enjoyed the same success in this season's two matchups, scoring 14 points in each while shooting 7 of 22.
Bismack Biyombo set a franchise record with 25 rebounds Thursday, and added a career-high 16 points. The center, however, has only totaled seven points and 10 boards in two games against Boston this season.
He'll have to contend with Kelly Olynyk, who is playing his second game since missing 12 with a shoulder injury. The center was sluggish Wednesday, finishing with eight points while missing 6 of 7 shots.
“A little pain. A little discomfort,” Olynyk said. “Trying to just keep the strength and keep the muscles activated. Hopefully you don't take too big of a bump but other than that it felt alright out there. I just need to get back into a rhythm.”
He's averaging 19.0 points in the last three visits to Toronto.
These teams will conclude their season series Wednesday in Boston.