TORONTO (AP)—The Boston Celtics can call themselves Atlantic Divisions champions for the first time since Larry Bird’s last season in the NBA.
“We accomplished one goal, getting into the playoffs and now we’ve accomplished the second goal, winning the division,” said Pierce, who was sporting a division title T-shirt.
The Celtics wrapped up their first division title since 1991-92 when Philadelphia lost to New Jersey just minutes before Boston finished off the Raptors. The Celtics’ 25th division crown gives them the No. 3 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Antoine Walker took pride in joining Boston’s winning tradition.
“When me and Paul were drafted they built the team around us. They paid us a lot of money,” Walker said. “Every team has tradition. We just have unbelievable tradition. It’s great to write your own story. What Bird, (Robert) Parish, (Danny) Ainge and (Kevin) McHale were able to do back in the day will never be duplicated, but we have a lot of talented guys on this team. Maybe one day we’ll get to that level.”
The Celtics head to the postseason with a four-game winning streak and have won six of seven.
Rivers said they still have a lot to play for. With two regular season games left, they haven’t captured home-court advantage in the first round.
“We have a two game lead. We need to win one more game of the two or Indiana, right now, has to lose one,” Rivers said. “Home-court is vital. It really is, especially playing Indiana. That’s what it looks like we’re going to play, but that could change over night.”
Rivers said the Atlantic Division didn’t turn out so bad this year.
“Everyone made fun of the Atlantic but there’s a chance that three teams from our division can get in. I think that’s pretty impressive,” Rivers said.
Pierce scored Boston’s final five points on free throws. He went 11-for-13 from the line. Raef LaFrentz added 18 points for the Celtics, who outrebounded the Raptors 41-33.
Jalen Rose had 31 points for the lottery-bound Raptors, who have won just four of their last 14 games.
“We could have played the spoiler,” said Chris Bosh, who had 26 points and 10 rebounds. “We had a chance against New Jersey last game and we had a chance today against Boston. We just came up short, but to everybody’s credit, we played hard and never gave up.”
Marcus Banks’ two free throws gave Boston a 14-point lead—their biggest lead of the game—with 9:23 left.
But Morris Peterson sparked an 11-0 run with consecutive layups as Toronto cut the lead to three with 6:26 remaining.
Walker’s short jumper gave Boston a seven-point lead with 2:35 left, but Rose converted a three-point play and hit a jumper to cut the lead to two with 1:55 left.
Pierce followed with two free throws, Walker blocked a shot on the other end and Pierce made one of two free throws to give Boston a 101-96 lead with 28 seconds left.
Pierce added two more from the line with 22 seconds remaining.
Fans booed Toronto center Rafael Araujo, who is averaging less than four points and four rebounds a game. First-year general manager Rob Babcock has been criticized for selecting Araujo with the eighth pick in the draft, one pick before Philadelphia took Andre Iguodala. Babcock also has been criticized for getting little in return for Vince Carter, and signing volatile point guard Rafer Alston to a six-year contract.