National Basketball Association
Raptors-Celtics Preview
National Basketball Association

Raptors-Celtics Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 9:37 p.m. ET

Earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs doesn't weigh on the Toronto Raptors' minds as much as some might believe. Their goals extend way beyond any superficial regular-season accomplishment.

That includes setting a franchise record for victories in a season, something Toronto can match by sweeping the four-game series with the host Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

The Raptors (48-21) set the mark each of the last two seasons, but both playoff runs ended with first-round defeats. They've made it clear during a successful 2015-16 that advancing deep in the postseason is the main focus.

Still, home-court advantage throughout the East playoffs would be a nice luxury. Toronto trails Cleveland by 1 1/2 games for the top spot and has won four in a row after beating Orlando 105-100 on Sunday.


DeMar DeRozan finished with 25 points and Luis Scola added 20 and eight boards for the Raptors, who will play for just the third time on the road in 12 games this month.

''I really don't look at it like we're chasing Cleveland,'' DeRozan said. ''At the end of the day, we're going to have home-court advantage regardless (in the first round). Our biggest focus is just getting everything we need to get together, especially defensive-wise, as a team.''

Toronto decided to rest reserve point guard Cory Joseph against the Magic despite also playing without Patrick Patterson, who was nursing an ankle injury. Coach Dwane Casey said holding out Joseph was a "strategic" move and he hasn't ruled out resting others as the regular season draws to a close.

''Eventually when we get to the seventh game of the conference final - if we get there - we'll worry about (home-court advantage) then,'' Scola said. ''We're fighting for it, because it's the right thing to do, but we can't lose sleep over it.''

Boston (41-30) probably tossed and turned a bit after Friday's 105-91 loss to the Raptors, wondering how Kyle Lowry got free so often. Lowry scored 32 points and made five 3-pointers, giving him a four-game stretch in which he's averaged 29.5 points and shot 50.0 percent from the floor.

Lowry had 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting against Orlando, and the Celtics hope he's off again as they try to avoid being swept in the season series. They've won back-to-back games since that defeat, beating Philadelphia 120-105 on Sunday and Orlando 107-96 the following night.

Kelly Olynyk had 22 points against the Magic in his fourth game back after missing 11 with a right shoulder sprain. He scored 17 while going 5 of 22 from the field over the previous three.

''When (the bench is) playing well it's even tougher for the defense to figure out who to stop,'' said guard Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 28 points. ''Kelly stepped in and had a hell of game. He made shots and we need him to do that.''

Thomas has averaged 26.5 points in 10 games this month, although his 20 against Toronto were the fewest in that stretch.

Amir Johnson, who spent his previous six seasons with the Raptors, had a season-high 18 points against the 76ers before finishing with 11 and 11 boards against Orlando.

Coach Brad Stevens said forward Jae Crowder will miss his sixth straight with an ankle injury, but that he could return sometime during Boston's five-game road trip that begins Saturday against Phoenix.


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