Sports

Raptors now trail Celtics by one game for first place in NBA's Eastern Conference

Kyle Lowry had 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists as Toronto defeated Boston Tuesday night.

Boston Celtics Jaylen Brown (7) shoots on Toronto Raptors OG Anunoby (centre) and Serge Ibaka (right) during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.

Chris Young / The Canadian Press

Boston Celtics Jaylen Brown (7) shoots on Toronto Raptors OG Anunoby (centre) and Serge Ibaka (right) during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.

TORONTO — Celtics coach Brad Stevens knew what Toronto's bench was capable of heading into Tuesday's game, yet Boston still wasn't able to contain the Raptors second unit.

Led by 20 points from C.J. Miles, Toronto's bench combined for 59 points in the Raptors' 111-91 win over the Celtics.

A 23-11 run by Toronto's reserves in the second quarter that blew the game open. The Raptors' bench combined for 28 of Toronto's 36 second-quarter points.

"There's not many groups I enjoy watching more than their second group," Stevens said. "When they're all on the floor together, the way they play, the way they move the ball, the way they cut — its a fun team to watch play."

Delon Wright added 14 points and Fred VanVleet finished with 10 points and eight assists. Starting guard DeMar DeRozan poured in 15 points and six assists.

"I think we literally have two separate teams and that's a great thing to have," said Kyle Lowry, who finished with a game-high 23 points eight rebounds and four assists. "We've got the bench guys that can come in and play as starters with pace. Its just fun to have a good team that overall in general can mix it in with each other.

"Different looks is always great to have. Different options."

Toronto now trails Boston by one game for first place in the NBA's Eastern Conference. The Raptors (37-16) improved to 8-3 in their past 11 games while the Celtics (39-16) saw their four-game winning streak come to an end.

Terry Rozier III had 18 points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench for the Celtics, who won the only other meeting between the two clubs 95-94 on Nov. 12 in Boston. Kyrie Irving, who returned after missing three games due to a right quad contusion, added 17 points and three assists. Jaylen Brown finished with 11 points and six rebounds.

"They played like an experienced, veteran group," Irving said of Toronto's bench. "They're the best second unit in the league and they have confidence in themselves. Delon and VanVleet play well off one another and (Pascal) Siakam is just running rim every single time.

"Then you fill Kyle and DeMar with that group and they play at an unbelievable pace."

Toronto held an 83-60 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Lowry and DeRozan each had 10 points in the fourth, while Irving paced the Celtics with seven third period points.

Boston was held to just 39 per cent shooting from the field through three.

Lowry had 13 points and five rebounds in the first half as Toronto led 58-37 at the break. Wright added 11 points in 11 minutes on 5-of-6 shooting.

"That's our job. For the bench to come in with that energy — try to change the game, change the pace of the game and we were able to do that," said VanVleet. "It's just about being consistent and bringing it every night."

Boston shot just 39.5 per cent from the field in the first half. The 37 points scored were the fewest first half points by a Raptors opponent this season.

Lowry's 10 points in the first quarter helped Toronto build a 22-18 lead. The Raptors guard went 3 for 4 from beyond the arc in the first while Serge Ibaka added six points and three rebounds.

Notes: Toronto concludes its season-long four-game homestand on Thursday when they play host to the New York Knicks. … Boston and Toronto meet twice more this season beginning with the Raptors visiting the TD Garden on Mar. 31.

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