The most storied franchise in NBA history can wrap up its first division crown in 13 years when the Celtics visit the Raptors.
A victory in this contest would make Boston the Atlantic Division champion for the first time since 1991-92, Larry Bird’s final season with the team. It would also be the 25th division crown for the Celtics, and give them the No. 3 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Even if it doesn’t win this game, Boston could still clinch on Sunday because its magic number is down to one over second-place Philadelphia, which will be visiting New Jersey.
The Celtics are on a roll as they head toward the postseason, having won three straight and five of six. They are coming off a victory over the best team in the East, beating Miami 101-99 on Friday on Paul Pierce’s 20-footer with nine seconds left.
Pierce, who had 22 points, was pleased “to go against the best team in the East and get a win.”
Another encouraging sign from that contest was the play of Al Jefferson, who could end up making an impact off the bench as Boston tries to make a run in the postseason.
The 20-year-old rookie scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter of Friday’s victory. Jefferson has scored in double figures in four of the team’s last seven games.
“Doc (Rivers) got over to me in the first half saying that I was chasing the ball,” Jefferson said. “He said (to) let the game come to me and I felt like that’s what I did.”
The Raptors, in their 10th year of existence, did not have such an enjoyable Friday.
They were unable to ruin the return of Vince Carter, allowing the former Toronto star to score 39 points in a 101-90 loss to New Jersey. The Raptors blew a 14-point halftime lead en route to their third loss in four games.
Jalen Rose led Toronto with 20 points. He’s averaged 23—about five above his season average—in eight games this month.
Of their last 13 games, the Raptors’ only four wins have all come against teams that are out of playoff contention.