BOSTON — The Toronto Raptors, a team that was supposed to jockey for lottery position this season, moved closer to the Atlantic Division title with a 99-90 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
The win, only the third in the last seven games for Toronto, moved the Raptors 2 1/2 games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets, overtime losers at Charlotte, for the division lead. The Raptors started the night as the No. 4 playoff seed.
The Raptors (40-31) survived a fourth-quarter assault by Boston forward Jared Sullinger to escape and send the Celtics to their seventh loss in the last eight games.
Sullinger, who had 25 points and 20 rebounds the last time the teams met, was quiet for three quarters Wednesday night. But he exploded for 19 points in a 6:46 span of the finale to finish with 26 points and eight rebounds. He did not score over the final 3:41.
Toronto guards DeMar DeRozen and Kyle Lowry kept their team from surrendering all of the 15-point lead the Raptors had at the end of the third quarter. The Celtics got as close as three down, closing to 93-90 with 1:49 left. But Lowry hit a tough 3-pointer to give the Raptors a six-point lead with 1:38 remaining and when forward Terrence Ross followed with another, the fans scrambled for the exits.
The Raptors went 11-for-23 from behind the arc and 16-for-18 from the foul line.
Ross, who was 5-for-9 on threes, finished with 24 points. Lowry went 4-for-8 from 3-point land, posting 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists. DeRozen had 20 points and seven rebounds. Center Jonas Valanciunas chipped in with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Guard Avery Bradley had 16 points and guard Chris Johnson 13 for the Celtics (23-48).
Boston point guard Rajon Rondo left the game after getting hit near the eye in the third quarter. He returned in the fourth quarter with nine stitches on the upper bridge of his nose. Rondo finished with 15 assists and nine points, but did not score after returning.
The Celtics jumped to a quick 5-0 lead and led 13-7 before getting outscored 24-9 over the rest of the quarter as the Raptors built a nine-point lead after one. The lead grew to 11 on the first play of the second quarter, but Boston went on a 13-0 run that took just 1:37 to take the lead.
The Celtics led 41-40 with five minutes left in the half, but the Raptors again finished strong, this time going on a 15-5 run over the final 4:42 to lead by nine at the half.
Lowry hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the third quarter and the lead was 15. The third quarter produced the third big finish for Toronto, which used a late 9-2 spurt to lead by 15 after three.
NOTES: Celtics PG Rajon Rondo, who still is not playing on back-to-back nights and reportedly will not for the rest of the season after coming back from knee surgery, will serve as a color commentator during the first quarter of Monday’s game at Chicago. “It should be good insight,” said Boston coach Brad Stevens. “He knows he can’t give too much insight. We’ll go over all the rules on Monday in pretty good detail.” … After the back-end of the current home-and home, the Celtics do the same with the Bulls, Sunday night in Boston. … Toronto F Patrick Patterson, out since suffering an elbow injury three weeks ago, was cleared for practice contact. “There’s no timetable for game. If we can get him up and going as soon as possible that’s the key,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. … The Celtics held a pre-game moment of silence honoring two firefighters killed Wednesday in a blaze not far from TD Garden.
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