The Toronto Raptors missed a chance to take advantage of a struggling Boston Celtics squad, but they still found some positives to take into Monday's rematch. Ray Allen poured in a season-high 36 points, including eight three-pointers as the Celtics held on for a 94-88 win over the Raptors on Sunday.
It was a game of three horrible quarters and one late-game surge for Toronto, and now the Raptors hope their strong fourth-quarter performance carries over when they travel to Boston and face the Celtics again on the back end of a rare home-and-home series.
''We're pumped up, we're fired up, we can't wait to get there,'' Raptors forward Joey Graham said after the game. ''The team needs to push the time up for the plane so we can hurry up and get there, because I'm anxious and ready to go.''
Andrea Bargnani had 17 points to top the Raptors (16-22), who saw their season-high three-game winning streak at the Air Canada Centre come to a screeching halt.
Chris Bosh added 15 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, while Jamario Moon had 15 points, and Jason Kapono and Graham finished with 12 apiece.
Rajon Rondo added 14 points and 11 assists for Boston (30-9), while Kevin Garnett had 10 points and 11 boards.
Elsewhere in the NBA it was: Philadelphia 109 Atlanta 94; Phoenix 109 Los Angeles Clippers 103; Orlando 105 San Antonio 98; Los Angeles Lakers 108 Miami 105; Sacramento 102 Dallas 85; and Golden State 120 Indiana 117.
At Toronto , the Raptors , who were missing starting centre Jermaine O'Neal, had won four of their previous five heading into Sunday, including a seemingly easy 103-82 victory over Memphis on Friday. The Celtics, on the other hand, arrived amid their worst losing streak of the season, dropping seven of their previous nine.
But except for a fourth-quarter comeback that came too late, it was Toronto that had all the trouble Sunday, trailing by double digits for most of the game and as much as 20 in the third quarter on some horrible shooting and sloppy play.
The Celtics took a 75-55 lead into the final 12 minutes, when the Raptors launched their comeback, outscoring their visitors 33-19 in the quarter. When Bosh drove hard by Garnett to finish with a two-handed dunk with 4:04 left, the basket brought the capacity crowd of 19,800 to its feet and cut Boston's lead to 85-76.
''I really liked our energy in the fourth quarter,'' said Raptors coach Jay Triano. ''We found a bunch of players that really had a lot of juice because I didn't think we had it much for the most part of the game, we didn't seem to have a lot of bounce.''
Bargnani drained a three-pointer to pull Toronto to within five with just over a minute to play. Bargnani then connected on two free throws and it was a three-point game with 35 seconds left. But Allen connected on four free throws in the final 30 seconds to ice the victory for Boston.
''I think it adds a lot of confidence, it's a difference between 16 and six points,'' Bosh said on his team's comeback. ''We fought back as a team, I think we can break down that fourth quarter (Monday) in film and take some positives out of what we did.''
Point guard Jose Calderon returned after missing four straight games with a strained right hamstring to finish with six points and just three assists in just under 22 minutes, as Raptors coach Jay Triano went with backup Roko Ukic in the fourth quarter. Before Calderon took a seat though, he hit his 79th consecutive free throw to pass Houston's Calvin Murphy for the third-longest streak in NBA history.
Calderon and O'Neal will remain in Toronto for treatment for Monday's game in Boston.
''It felt pretty good when I was on the court,'' Calderon said. ''But everything's sore in there, so I'll do treatment (Monday) and Tuesday and see how it's feeling.''
Coming off a season-high 55.6 per cent shooting in Friday's win, the Raptors shot 38 per cent, but a horrible 31 per cent through the first three quarters. The Celtics shot 41 per cent, but just 22 per cent in the fourth.
The Raptors edged Boston on the boards 44-43.
''Well, it was a win,'' said Boston coach Doc Rivers. ''We'll give (the Raptors) credit, they kept fighting, we kind of let our guard down a little bit and then we couldn't control them. They closed out the game far better than us.''
Allen took little time to get going Sunday, draining four three-pointers as part of a 14-0 Celtics first-quarter run that gave the visitors an eight-point lead. Allen would shoot a perfect 5-for-5 from beyond the arc in the first and Boston took a 32-20 lead into the second.
''He hit a couple of wide open shots, but I don't know how much better you can defend some of them,'' Bosh said. ''When a guy goes 8-for-10 from the three-point line, that's pretty abnormal.''
76ers 109 Hawks 94
At Atlanta, Andre Iguodala scored 27 points, and Philadelphia took advantage of Al Horford's absence to dominate near the basket and beat the Hawks for its first four-game winning streak of the season.
Suns 109 Clippers 103
At Los Angeles, Amare Stoudemire overcame early foul trouble to score 26 points, Jason Richardson and Grant Hill each had 21, and Phoenix sent the Clippers to their 11th straight loss.
Magic 105 Spurs 98
At San Antonio, Dwight Howard scored 24 points, Jameer Nelson had eight of his 22 in the final two minutes, and Orlando snapped the Spurs' four-game winning streak.
Lakers 108 Heat 105
At Los Angeles, Andrew Bynum scored a season-high 24 points, including a go-ahead follow shot with 18.5 seconds remaining, and the Lakers beat Miami to become the first Western Conference team to reach 30 victories.
Kings 102 Mavericks 95
At Sacramento, Calif., Kevin Martin scored 21 points, Francisco Garcia had seven during a key fourth-quarter stretch, and the Kings ended their five-game losing streak by beating Dallas.
Warriors 120 Pacers 117
At Oakland, Calif., Jamal Crawford scored 32 points and hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 11.3 seconds left, and Golden State snapped its five-game losing streak with a thrilling victory over Indiana.