Raptors clinch playoff berth with win over Celtics
By IAN HARRISON
TORONTO (AP) Amir Johnson was finishing up a phone call as a crowd of reporters gathered around his locker.
"My grandmother called and she said she's proud," a smiling Johnson said as he put the phone down.
She should be. Thanks to a timely bucket by her grandson, the Toronto Raptors are headed back to the NBA playoffs.
Johnson scored the winning basket with seven seconds left, and the Raptors clinched their first playoff berth in six seasons by beating the Boston Celtics 105-103 on Friday night.
"It's a satisfying, kind of overwhelming feeling," Johnson said. "But at the same time, you know you've still got a lot more to accomplish."
It's the first trip to the playoffs for DeRozan after four seasons of frustration.
"It makes it feel all worth it, honestly," he said. "The hard work, the struggles, the nights going home where you're just frustrated and don't want to turn on sports. It really shows you that if you stick at it and don't give up, not to sound cliched, but it definitely pays off."
The Atlantic Division-leading Raptors last reached the playoffs in 2007-08, losing to Orlando in five games in the first round. This is their sixth playoff berth in 19 seasons.
"This team has worked so hard," Johnson said. "It was a good game tonight and we deserved it."
Jerryd Bayless scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough for Boston, which has dropped three straight and eight of nine. Jeff Green scored 16 points, while Jared Sullinger, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley each had 11.
The Celtics dropped to 8-27 on the road.
"The difference in the game was (DeRozan) making the tough shots," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
Toronto led 95-86 on back-to-back jump shots by DeRozan with 8:04 remaining, but Chris Johnson scored four points as Boston replied with an 8-0 run, causing the Raptors to call timeout.
Bayless put Boston in front with a jumper, and then followed a layup by Lowry with a 3, giving the Celtics a 99-97 edge with 3:56 left. Bayless went 8 for 13 from the field against his former team.
Olynyk pushed the lead to four with a layup, but Vasquez fed Lowry for a driving layup and then made a pair of free throws to tie it at 101 with 1:14 remaining.
After a Boston timeout, Lowry rebounded Green's missed shot, but Green hustled back to deny DeRozan a layup. Toronto kept the ball, and DeRozan put the Raptors ahead with a fadeaway jumper.
"It was a great shot," Stevens said.
Rondo tied it for the eighth time with a layup, and Toronto called timeout, advancing the ball to midcourt. Lowry couldn't convert a driving layup, but Johnson grabbed the rebound and banked it home to put the Raptors up by two.
Johnson and DeRozan are the longest serving Raptors, so Casey found it fitting that they played such pivotal roles in the outcome.
"They've been through thick and thin, through good times and bad times," Casey said.
Rondo inbounded the ball to Sullinger with three seconds left, but his shot bounced off the backboard as the buzzer sounded, sending the sellout crowd of 19,800 into joyous celebration.
"The energy in the building just erupted," DeRozan said. "It just shows you how much our fans back us. They stick with us though it all. It was definitely cool to get that reaction."
The Raptors started the game in a funk, missing five of their first six shots, but responded by hitting 10 of their next 12. Valanciunas scored 10 points in the first and Ross had nine as Toronto led 32-26 after one.
Lowry appeared to injure his right ankle when he got tangled up with Bradley after missing a 3 with just over three minutes to go in the second. Lowry was helped off the court but managed to walk to the locker room for treatment.
Green scored seven points in the second and Sullinger had six, but Toronto's Tyler Hansbrough scored a layup with less than a second remaining to give the Raptors a 56-53 lead at halftime.
Lowry had his ankle re-taped during the break and started the second half for Toronto, but DeRozan was the star of the third quarter. He scored 12 points as the Raptors took an 85-73 lead into the fourth.
Lowry said afterward that he was "a little sore," but played down the severity of the injury.
"I'm fine," he said. "Good to go."
NOTES: Green, who was bothered by a stiff neck in Wednesday's loss to Toronto, started for the Celtics. Stevens said Green was feeling "much better." ... Casey said F Patrick Patterson, out since March 7 with a sore right elbow, could return Sunday or Monday. "He's still sore but he's making great progress," Casey said. ... Lowry played in his 499th career game, but failed to reach the 20-point plateau for the first time in eight games. ... At 41-31, Toronto is guaranteed to finish at .500 or better for the sixth time in franchise history. ... The Raptors are 30-2 this season when leading after three quarters, including a 17-0 mark at home.
Updated March 28, 2014
WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable previews Super Bowl XLIX between the Patriots and Seahawks.
The voice of the Super Bowl Kevin Harlan joins the show to preview the Super Bowl and talk about some the Patriots games he has called.
Tom E Curran joins the show on Radio Row to preview the Super Bowl and talk about the fraud Roger Goodell.
Ben and Sam discuss ways to improve the NBA All-Star weekend, hand out of hardware, and give their Finals predictions
Jackie MacMullen, ESPN Boston, talks with MFB about Rondo being traded to the Dallas Mavericks, and how this will have an effect on the Celtics rebuild process
How have the Celtics looked after a couple weeks? Could they be a playoff team? These questions and more...
The Red Sox have taken over Foxwoods and Red Sox Manager John Farrell sat down with Mut and Bradford to talk about the roster and how the 2015 season is looking.
Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly and 3B Pablo Sandoval sat down with Mut and Bradford. Joe Kelly had a few interesting proclamations. First he said that 95% of pitchers use some sort of grip enhancer, and then he said he was going to win the Cy Young. Pablo leaned over and promised 10 HR's, explaining to Joe that the trick is to set the bar low.
Mut and Rob are in on the Hot Stove Show this week and they're taking calls and talking about the Red Sox pitching as we are 5 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.
Pierre McGuire talks about ways hockey players skirt the rules in the NHL and the development of Dougie Hamilton.
Pierre McGuire joins Lou, Christian and Tim to discuss the resurgent Bruins, the emergence of David Pastrnak, and former Boston College stand-out Johnny Gaudreau looking to trademark the name 'Johnny Hockey.'
We get our state of the B report from NESN's Jack Edwards, right in the midst of a 4 game winning streak and hot return for David Pastrnak.
Wrapping up the show's week on radio row.
Show favorite Mad Dog Russo joins the guys to look at Sunday's game and the response he has seen to deflategate.
Kravitz calls in to put a wrap on the deflategate this week's coverage. He details some of the twitter attacks he has received from Patriots fans.
Christian ran around Radio Row getting predictions form anyone he could find, which included being Green-Flied by Warren Sapp
Local Wiseguy Louie Merloni gives us the lines for Super Bowl XLIX
Adam Schefter, ESPN, joins Lou, Christian and Tim to talk about all the news surrounding Super Bowl XLIX
We help you gamblers out there by breaking down some Super Bowl Prop Bets.
Kevin Harlan talks about some of his famous calls from Patriots games and previews the Super Bowl live from Radio Row.
Tom E Curran joins the show on Radio Row to preview the Super Bowl and give his prediction for the big game.
Mikey, Mut and Lenny are talking about Roger Goodell's state of the game address and question and answer period from earl
Mikey and Mut are gearing up for the Super Bowl on the final show before the Patriots take on the Seahawks.
DeOssie joins Mut from Arizona to talk about how big the hype has been for this year's Super Bowl in comparison to other Super Bowl games in the past and how Seattle's defense matches up against New England's offense.
Jim and Pete talk about the final football game of the 2014 season. It's the Patriots and the Seahawks, and there's still fantasy football to be played!
Chris and comedian Mike Mulloy recap the final Raw before the Rumble and preview the Rumble itself.
Would you rather watch important games in the stadium or on TV? Also we discuss our worst experiences at stadiums.
Old friend Boomer Esiason drops by to give his take on the big game. Boomer thinks the Patriots will prevail in the desert.More from this show
Mikey, Mut and Lenny are talking about Roger Goodell's state of the game address and question and answer period from earlMore from this show