BOSTON • The high-flying Boston Celtics have found all kinds of ways to win during their 12-game streak, with all kinds of players out.
On Sunday, they had Al Horford back but played without the injured Kyrie Irving. Yet they still managed to pull out a 95-94 victory over the Toronto Raptors, who are in line to be one of their major competitors to make the play-offs out of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Eastern Conference.
"It's unbelievable... we are playing good teams too," Terry Rozier said after the Celtics (12-2) survived two DeMar DeRozan shots in the closing seconds for their sixth straight home victory.
This is a side that lost major free agent forward Gordon Hayward in the first quarter of the first game of the season. TV commentator Charles Barkley declared that night that Boston's season was "over".
Not so fast. After DeRozan missed a jumper with Horford on him, Jayson Tatum grabbed the rebound, turned and hit Fred VanVleet with an elbow for an offensive foul with 13.4 seconds remaining. The play was reviewed, the call stood and Toronto kept the ball.
DeRozan went one-on-one with Jaylen Brown, his shot fell off the rim and the buzzer sounded amid a wild scramble under the basket.
"Great look - it felt good and I thought it was going to roll in but didn't," said the Toronto guard, who led the Raptors with 24 points.
"It came down to the last shot - have to love games like that."
Raptors coach Dwane Casey added: "I'll take that shot 999 times out of 1,000. Came up short on it, he got to where he wanted to go with the basketball, we got him open, play was well executed by everybody. Guy just missed a shot."
The 12-game winning run is Boston's longest since 2010, when they won 14 in a row. They can match that with wins at Brooklyn today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time) and then at home against the NBA champions Golden State Warriors on Thursday.
"I haven't heard any of the guys talk about (the streak)," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "Certainly, we're (the staff members) not talking about it."
Horford, who missed two games because of a concussion, scored 21 points to lead five Boston players in double figures. Brown added 18 points, Rozier scored 16, Marcus Smart had 14 and Tatum had 13 points and seven rebounds.
"They are the best team in the NBA right now and they are playing unbelievable," Toronto's Kyle Lowry said. "Everybody is picking up the slack."