TORONTO -- Their top scorer is done for the year, their floor general was in street clothes because of a cut over his right eye, there were two D Leaguers in the starting lineup and one of the hottest teams in NBA as the opponent.
Of course, the Toronto Raptors would beat the Boston Celtics on Friday night in this most improbable of NBA seasons.
With Andrea Bargnani done for the season and Jose Calderon on the shelf, the Raptors relied on a makeshift roster and an old-fashioned slow-down attack to record an 84-79 victory at the Air Canada Centre that no one could have seen coming.
Forcing the Celtics into a miserable 37 percent shooting night, the Raptors hung on thanks to a solid outing from a makeshift lineup.
Point guards Ben Uzoh and Justin Dentmon, both in the middle of 10-day contracts, orchestrated a calm, plodding offense and Toronto's defense forced Boston into an awful shooting night.
"We're playing for pride, we're playing to change the culture and that's about it," coach Dwane Casey said after the Raptors hung on down the stretch in the face of a suddenly intense Boston defense.
"This win was huge, no matter what happens the rest of the year."
DeMar DeRozan, despite missing 10 of 14 field goal attempts, had 22 points that included a perfect 13-for-13 night from the free-throw line to lead Toronto while Linas Kleiza provided a huge boost with 17 off the bench, including two crucial free throws with 13.2 seconds left that gave Toronto the game.
"We knew we had this game in the first half," said DeRozan. "We couldn't make our shots but we were still in the game. It was a six-point game at halftime and we knew if we turned it up and just started being aggressive at both ends, we could win this game and that's what we did."
For the Celtics, who looked disinterested the entire night, Paul Pierce had 18 points but missed a vital three-pointer with about seven seconds left.
"I told our guys you can never activate a team and I thought we did that," said Boston coach Doc Rivers. "They haven't won a lot of games and once they felt they had a chance to win, they made great shot and made big plays. I thought we put ourselves in that position."
Avery Bradley had 15 and Kevin Garnett 13 but the Celtics didn't lead after the middle of the third quarter and couldn't turn on the intensity in the final frantic minutes.
Alan Anderson, the third D Leaguer playing significant minutes, had 13 for Toronto.
Not surprisingly, given they were forced to use a starting lineup with D League call-ups at point guard (Uzoh) and small forward (Anderson), the Raptors struggled to score from the opening tip, posting a season low 30 points in the first half while shooting just 23.1 per cent from the field.
But more surprising was Boston's desultory play in the opening two quarters. The Celtics played with little intensity and even less enthusiasm, shooting just 41 percent from the field to take a 36-30 lead at the break.
"Right now, we have a lot to play for, we are playing for playoff positioning and that has to be the mindset regardless of who steps on the floor," said Paul Pierce. "So with the possibility of moving up to the three- or four-seed, these are must-win games for us."
Only Brandon Bass, with eight points, showed much on the offensive end in the first half while Pierce was a quiet 1-for-5 from the floor and Rajon Rondo missed the only shot he took. Rondo did dish out eight assists but didn't score a point or grab a rebound in 17 first-half minutes.
Pierce finished with 18 points to lead Boston but the Celtics shot just 37.5 percent for the game.
NOTES: The Celtics were beginning their first stretch of three games in three nights, they are at New Jersey on Saturday and in Charlotte on Sunday ... Ray Allen didn't travel with the Celtics, he's been bothered by right ankle pain ... This is the second time in franchise history the Raptors have had three players -- Alan Anderson, Ben Uzoh and Justin Dentmon -- on 10-day contracts at the same time in a season; the other time was in 2003.