A last-second defeat has the Toronto Raptors needing a win and help on the final day of the season to earn the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
With DeMar DeRozan’s status uncertain, the Raptors will try to handle the severely depleted Charlotte Hornets and earn a franchise-best 49th victory Wednesday night.
Toronto (48-33) had an opportunity to put its destiny in the race for the third seed in its own hands with a fourth consecutive win Tuesday in Boston. Instead, the Raptors lost 95-93 when Jae Crowder hit a fall-away jumper in the final second.
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Coach Dwane Casey chose to rest DeRozan (sore groin).
" … we didn’t want to risk re-injuring it," Casey said. "If it would have been a playoff game, he probably could have gone, but I was going with what the training staff recommended. … That was their call."
Toronto did get starting forward Amir Johnson back from a four-game absence due to an ankle injury.
The Raptors need a win and a Chicago loss to Atlanta to earn the third seed. That would leave the Raptors with the same record as the Bulls, but Toronto owns the tiebreaker because it won the Atlantic Division while Chicago finished second in the Central.
The Raptors would face Washington in the opening round if they’re the No. 4 seed and Milwaukee if they finish third.
Toronto can also top its 48 wins from last season, when it made its first playoff appearance in six years.
"It would be big for us. We wanted 50, but that’s out the window. We’re going to take as many wins as we can possibly get," said point guard Kyle Lowry, who has played three games since returning from back spasms Friday.
Lowry has averaged 23.3 points in his last three games against Charlotte (33-48). He sat out the Raptors’ lone win in the season series, a 92-74 road victory last Wednesday.
The Hornets played without Al Jefferson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Lance Stephenson and Cody Zeller in the second of their current string of five defeats.
P.J. Hairston was also out for a 100-90 loss to Houston on Monday because of a sprained right knee, and all five players are expected to miss this game. Gerald Henderson played through an ailing hip, finishing with two points on 1-of-10 shooting.
The Hornets came into this season seeking their first back-to-back playoff appearances since a three-year run from 2000-02 and held the No. 7 spot March 8 before losing 15 of 20.
"It’s up to us players to go into the summer with a different mindset of knowing where we’re at and where we can be if we work hard enough," center Bismack Biyombo said. "It’s a challenge for all of us: coaches, front office and players. I’m sure we’re going to take the challenge and go into the summer and get better."
Henderson scored a season-high 31 points in the Hornets’ only visit to Toronto this season, a 103-95 victory Jan. 8. Kemba Walker had his second consecutive 29-point game at Air Canada Centre.