The Toronto Raptors are in position to win their first division title and end a playoff drought partly because of their success against Atlantic Division rivals.

They'll try to continue that strong play within the division when they visit the Boston Celtics on Monday in their fourth and final meeting.

Toronto (38-31) leads the second-place New Jersey Nets by 6 1/2 games in the Atlantic while last-place Boston (20-49) is 18 games back. The Raptors are 9-3 against divisional foes this season as they try to sweep the Celtics for the first time.

The Raptors haven't won a division crown in their 12-year history and are looking for their first playoff berth since 2001-02. They have won six of their last eight games, including a 121-94 win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday.

Toronto shot 57.0 percent (49-for-86) from the field, hitting 12 of 23 from 3-point range, while holding the Nuggets to 37.9 percent (33-for-87) shooting. Denver's Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson average a combined 55.4 points, but were held to 24 points on 6-of-27 shooting.

"It was defense, rebounding, and the way we were moving the ball," said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, whose team scored a season-high 72 first-half points. "It was probably as complete a game we played on both ends as we have all year. Defensively, you got two of the leading scorers in the NBA on one team and those guys weren't the leading scorers and that doesn't happen too often."

Toronto's Morris Peterson matched his season-high with 23 points, Jorge Garbajosa scored a career-high 22 points and T.J. Ford recorded 14 points and 14 assists. Raptors leading scorer Chris Bosh had 14 points despite leaving in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle that has him listed as day-to-day Monday.

Anthony Parker is also day-to-day with an ankle sprain while 2006 top overall pick Andrea Bargnani is out indefinitely after undergoing an appendectomy.

The Raptors will have to deal with any absences through their depth, which was on display Friday with nine players scoring at least seven points.

"I'm really impressed by this team. They might have the best talent in the Eastern Conference,'' Nuggets coach George Karl said. "Their eight or nine guys know how to play. Detroit has probably the best starters in the league, but this team has great players. They have a chance to be a great team."

Bosh is averaging 20.6 points in 14 career meetings with the Celtics - tied for his second-best mark against any opponent. He and Parker fueled the Raptors' most recent win over Boston by combining for 49 points in a 96-90 victory on Jan. 26.

Boston has the Eastern Conference's worst record and has dropped three straight games, including a 109-95 loss to Dallas on Friday. Paul Pierce was the only Celtics starter in double figures with 30 points despite making 5-of-18 shots.

Forward Al Jefferson matched his season low with four points on 1-of-11 shooting for the Celtics, who shot 36.4 percent (28-for-77).

"They had a game plan for us from the jump,'' said Jefferson, who is averaging 15.4 points. "They trapped me every time I got the ball, and made Paul try to beat them by himself. And Paul didn't have the backbone of us to help him.''

Boston could be without forward Brian Scalabrine, who missed Friday's game with a strained left hamstring.


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