The Toronto Raptors visited the Boston Celtics Wednesday night for the first half of a home-and-home, and the Atlantic Division leaders made up some playoff ground with a 99-90 win. After trailing by 15 early in the fourth quarter, Boston fought back to within three points in the final two minutes but could not complete the comeback.
The Brooklyn Nets were defeated in overtime by the Charlotte Bobcats, giving the Raptors a 2.5-game cushion in the division and a tie with the Chicago Bulls for third place in the East on identical 40-31 records.
Terrence Ross drained five three-pointers on his way to a team-high 24 points. Kyle Lowry scored 23 and hit four three-pointers, while DeMar DeRozan completed the backcourt tandem with 20 points including 10 free throws.
The Raptors survived despite a 51-7 disparity in bench scoring.
Jared Sullinger kept Boston in the game with 26 points, 21 of them in the second half as he buried four three-pointers. Rajon Rondo finished with nine points and 15 assists, but he took an errant elbow from Greivis Vasquez during the second half and required nine stitches in the middle of his head before returning in the fourth.
It was a seesaw game that saw the Raptors jump out to a nine-point lead after one quarter, lose it, then fight back on top to 55-46 at the half. Boston kept it close, but Toronto controlled most of the game.
These teams meet again across the border on Friday. The Celtics then face a home-and-home with the Chicago Bulls as they ponder their lottery pick at 25 games below .500.
The Raptors will be clawing for playoff positioning in Florida after hosting Boston, getting the Orlando Magic on Sunday and Miami Heat on Monday.