TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan scored 13 of his 22 points in the third quarter and made four pivotal free throws down the stretch as the short-handed Toronto Raptors held off the Boston Celtics 84-79 Friday night.
DeRozan was a perfect 13-for-13 from the line as the Raptors ended a four-game losing skid despite being without two of their top players. Big man Andrea Bargnani was shut down for the rest of 2011-12 with an aggravation of a lingering left calf injury that had forced him to miss nearly half the season, while point guard Jose Calderon was still feeling the effects of a right eye bruise and was kept out as a precaution.
Paul Pierce’s 18 points paced the Celtics (34-25), who nearly wiped out a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit but ultimately fell short in the opener of a dizzying stretch that will see them play six games in six different cities over an eight-day span. Boston remained three games ahead of Philadelphia atop the Atlantic Division after the 76ers dropped a 95-89 decision to the New Jersey Nets.
The Celtics used relentless full-court pressure and timely shot-making to erase Toronto’s double-digit edge, pulling to within one on a three-point play by Pierce with 38.8 seconds remaining. DeRozan drew a foul on Toronto’s next possession and made both free throws to put Toronto ahead 78-75, but Pierce answered with a one-handed slam to trim the deficit with 20.5 seconds left.
Two more free throws by DeRozan extended the lead, and Pierce missed badly on a game-tying 3-point attempt. Linas Kleiza knocked down four free throws in the waning moments to put the game away, giving Toronto a split of the four-game season series.
Kleiza added 17 points in a reserve role for Toronto, which finished with a 50-37 rebounding edge.
Down 36-30 despite shooting 9-for-39 in the opening half, the Raptors pushed the tempo early in the third quarter and eventually pulled ahead on a long DeRozan jumper with 7:49 remaining. Alan Anderson followed with a three-pointer from the right corner and Amir Johnson added a short hook shot with 5:17 left to cap Toronto’s 17-4 quarter-opening run.
DeRozan knocked down a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock. Pierce responded with his own, but Kleiza’s 3 on Toronto’s next possession helped propel the Raptors to a 57-47 edge entering the fourth.
Anderson’s 3-pointer in the opening two minutes of the quarter extended the advantage to 15, and he hit another three from the right corner while being fouled to bring the Air Canada Crowd of 17,270 to its feet. He completed the four-point play to put Toronto up 72-57, cueing the Celtics’ comeback.
Kevin Garnett had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, while Rajon Rondo dished out 12 assists, giving him 20 straight games with double-digit assists.
NOTES: The Celtics were without G Ray Allen, who is hobbled by a sore right ankle and did not travel to Toronto. He is considered day-to-day. … Kleiza returned to the lineup after missing nearly the entire second half of Wednesday’s loss to Philadelphia with a sore knee. … Toronto finished with just nine first-half field goals, narrowly avoiding the franchise low of seven set Jan. 11, 2010 in Indiana. … Boston plays just twice over the final six days of the regular season, wrapping things up with home dates against Miami and Milwaukee.
HAWKS 109, MAGIC 81: Jannero Pargo hit five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, and Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Marvin Williams each had 16 as the Atlanta Hawks beat the Orlando Magic 109-81 on Friday night in Orlando.
The Hawks earned their third straight win over the Magic this season and have now won six consecutive regular-season meetings over their division mates.
Atlanta shot 50 percent from the field (40 for 79) for the game, including 14 3-pointers. The Hawks led by 35 at one point.
Glen Davis and Von Wafer each scored 16 points to lead the Magic. Orlando lost its second straight and fell to 1-4 without center Dwight Howard, who sat for the fifth time in seven games with back spasms.
The Hawks exploited Howard’s absence in the middle from the opening tip, driving the ball into the heart of the Magic’s defense at will in the early going.
Atlanta scored 16 points in the paint in the first quarter and shot 75 percent (15 for 20) from the field to build a 13-point lead. That advantage grew to 62-42 at the half, with the Hawks still shooting 56 percent (22 for 39) heading into the break.
The Magic briefly showed life, pulling to 74-60 late in the third quarter, but it was short-lived as the Hawks’ 15-2 run quickly pushed the lead to 27 and they were able to cruise the rest of the way.
It got so bad in the fourth quarter as the Hawks’ lead reached 30 points that the Magic were even whistled for a technical for excessive timeouts.
The real damage was done much earlier, though.
The 62 points scored by Atlanta in the first half was a new high for a Magic opponent in the opening half this season, surpassing the old mark of 60 set by Milwaukee last month.
Offensively for the Hawks it was the Johnson and Smith show early as they combined to shoot 7 for 11 and score 21 points in the opening 24 minutes.
The Magic were forced to play very small at times, going with a lineup at one point of Ish Smith, Von Wafer, Quentin Richardson, Ryan Anderson and Earl Clark to try to use their speed.
It had minimal success, though, with their attack limited almost exclusively to pick-and-rolls. Minus their inside-out sets to set up shooter, the Magic’s outside shooting suffered as well. For the game they went just 6 for 28 from 3.
Davis tried to carry the scoring load with eight points, but Orlando’s 10 first-half turnovers didn’t help.
Van Gundy, who had managed to control his usually fiery temper with referees this season, was also whistled for his first technical foul of the season for arguing what appeared to be questionable offensive foul call on Wafer late in the half.
NOTES: Pargo’s five 3-pointers tied a season-high. … The Magic fell to 4-10 when an opponent scores 100 or more points. … With his fifth missed regular-season game Howard set a new personal high for missed games in a season. He missed four games last season. Prior to this season Howard had only missed two games in his career due to injury. The rest were either because of illness or suspension.