NBA: Toronto Raptors topple Boston Celtics to extend Eastern Conference lead

Toronto Raptorss guard DeMar DeRozan (right) driving past Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown during their NBA match on April 4, 2018.
Toronto Raptorss guard DeMar DeRozan (right) driving past Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown during their NBA match on April 4, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - DeMar DeRozan finished with 16 points to help lead the Toronto Raptors to a 96-78 statement victory over the visiting Boston Celtics in a battle of the Eastern Conference's top two teams on Wednesday night (April 4).

Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet added 15 points apiece and Kyle Lowry scored 13 for Toronto, who extended their lead over second-place Boston atop the East to three games with four to play. The Raptors need one win or a Celtics loss to clinch the top seed.

Marcus Morris led the Celtics with 21 points, and Greg Monroe had 17 and eight rebounds. Boston lost their second consecutive game after winning six straight. The Celtics split their four-game season series with the Raptors after winning 110-99 last Saturday in Boston.

Toronto had lost two straight - including a 111-91 decision at Cleveland on Tuesday - and five of eight since a season-high, 11-game winning streak.

Boston were playing without star Kyrie Irving, who missed his 11th game in a row after undergoing a left knee procedure. Marcus Smart (thumb) also missed his 11th straight and Shane Larkin (illness) sat out a second straight game.

The Raptors won despite shooting just 43.5 per cent (40 of 92) for the game. Toronto outrebounded the Celtics 48-43.

Al Horford contributed 16 points for the Celtics, who were held to a season low in points. Boston shot just 33.3 per cent (25 of 75) from the floor while making just 13.6 per cent (three of 22) of their three-point attempts.

Terry Rozier was back in the Celtics' starting line-up after missing the team's 106-102 defeat at Milwaukee on Tuesday with an ankle injury. He finished with two points, a team-leading nine rebounds and three assists.

The turning point came in the second quarter when the Raptors erased a six-point hole to outscore the Celtics 29-13 and take a 43-33 advantage into half-time.

Toronto stretched their lead to 20 in the third and entered the fourth up 67-53. Boston were unable to trim their deficit under single digits in the final period.

Boston host the Chicago Bulls on Friday, the same day Toronto host the Indiana Pacers.