Toronto Raptors (55-20) @ Boston Celtics (52-23)
When: Saturday, March 31, 7:30 P.M. ET
Where: TD Garden
Broadcast info: SN1, SN590
Toronto's last meeting with the Celtics came in February at the Air Canada Centre where the Raptors used a big second quarter to roll to a dominant 111-91 victory. After trailing by four at the end of the opening 12 minutes, Toronto outscored Boston 36-19 in the second quarter to take a 58-37 lead at the half break. Toronto's reserves maintained the lead in the second half, allowing the starters to rest the entire fourth quarter. Kyle Lowry had 23 points to lead the Raptors, while C.J. Miles scored 20 off the bench, on 6-for-8 shooting. DeMar DeRozan had 15 and Delon Wright added 14. The Celtics were led by Kyrie Irving's 17 points and Terry Rozier's 18 points off the bench in the loss.
LEADING INTO TONIGHT'S GAME
Injury report: For the Raptors, the injury report is clear. For the Celtics, Gordon Hayward (left ankle rehab), Kyrie Irving (left knee surgery), Marcus Smart (right thumb surgery), and Daniel Theis (left knee surgery) are out.
One away: The Raptors are a victory away from tying the single-season franchise-record of 56 victories. This record was set during the 2015-16 season, and this season's current 55-20 record is the third consecutive year the team has topped 50-victories.
Battle for the East: The Raptors lead the Celtics by 3.0 games for first place in the Eastern Conference. Each team has won its home game in the two meetings so far, with two games remaining in the season series. The Raptors will see Boston for a final time in the regular season, on Wednesday, Apr. 4 at the Air Canada Centre, on a back-to-back, following their road game in Cleveland.
Spark plug: In four games since returning from a two-game absence for a hand contusion, Fred VanVleet has averaged 15.8 points. The reserve point guard is shooting 56 percent from the floor and 58 percent (15-for-26) from beyond the arc, leading a bench mob that is averaging 42 points per contest.
Pass the rock: In a season where Toronto's starters, especially the Kyle Lowry/DeMar DeRozan backcourt, have benefited from the strong play of the bench, DeRozan is averaging a career-high 5.2 assists to go with his team-leading 23.3 points per game. He is enjoying how his role has changed this season, as well as the extra rest the bench has allowed. "I have a great time passing the ball," DeRozan said. "Seeing guys knock down shots and being able to take less shots and win by 10+. As long as we win, that's all I care about."
Finding ways to win: The Celtics returned to Boston to prepare for the Raptors after going 4-0 on a difficult West Coast swing, despite an injury-deleted roster. Boston has won five games in a row, the final victory on the road trip coming down to a three-pointer with 0.3 seconds on the clock from Jaylen Brown to gave the Celtics a 97-94 victory over the Utah Jazz. As has been the case all season, the Celtics continue to find ways to get the job done, regardless of who is or isn't in uniform each night.