Breakfast Special: The Raptors Put the East On Notice

The Toronto Raptors marched into Air Canada Centre with a two-game lead on the Boston Celtics and with pole position in the Eastern Conference potentially hanging in the balance; the winner would almost certainly get the tiebreaker in the Atlantic Division and therefore in the race for the top seed.

The Raptors left Air Canada Centre celebrating a 96-78 complete beatdown of the Celtics, a 3-1 season series victory assured, the magic number for clinching the No. 1 seed cut to one (and with an exhausted Indiana team coming to town on a SEGABABA Friday night and with Orlando, Detroit, and Miami after them, the chances of Toronto choking away the top spot are close enough to zero that it’s fair to say the chance is zero.

This was a massive statement. It puts the Eastern Conference on notice. It tells Houston and Golden State “See you in the Finals after you sort out which of you wants to show up.”

Oh, and we did mention Toronto went 2-0 against the Rockets in the regular season, right?

Was it a great performance? On defense, sure, but DeMar DeRozan‘s 16 points to lead the team came on 6-of-17 shooting.

But Boston shot 33.3 percent from the field, just 13.6 percent (3-of-22) from three, and if they hadn’t been strong from the line (25-of-28), they might well have failed to break 70.

The Raptors turned the ball over 10 times; the Celtics, 16.

Oh, and all 12 Raptors players played at least 11 minutes; Kyle Lowry‘s 32 was the only minute total over 30.

DeRozan’s 16 gets him man of the match honors as the Raptors tie the franchise record with 56 wins:

Pour Out A 40, Detroit Is Dead

The Pistons finally got officially mathematically eliminated from the playoffs by the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers, who won their 12th straight game by a 115-108 count, dropping the Pistons to 37-41 on the season; Milwaukee, in eighth, is 42-36.

The 76ers, meanwhile, are 48-30; that’s the same record as the Cleveland Cavaliers, And they play each other Friday night. While Cleveland is all but guaranteed the tiebreaker (on conference record) even if they lose, being an actual game up might make it winner take all for the 3 seed.

But for now, let’s talk about J.J. Redick, who hit 10-of-13 from the field and 5-of-7 from three, scored 25 points, dished six assists, and powered a Sixers attack that hit 49.4 percent overall and 43.3 percent beyond the arc in the win.

Anthony Tolliver was valiant in defeat, scoring 25 for Detroit, but there is no stopping the Philly steamroller.

Lake Show Horror Show for the Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs have been one of the most enigmatic teams in the NBA this year. The 3 seed for nearly the whole of the season before the All-Star break, once dropped down to tenth, then to 4th, and now they choked away a winnable game at Staples Center and lost to the Lakers 122-112.

What a roller coaster.

LaMarcus Aldridge continues to hurt the team with his complete inability to make threes and his insistence on buttering his bread with The Worst Shot In Basketball™ from the midrange. Even though he had 28 points and was plus-7, he did it on 12-of-20 shooting, all of those makes two-pointers (he was 4-of-5 from the line.)

Meanwhile, Kyle Kuzma ended up with 30 points on 11-of-23, but he was 5-of-9 from long range.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was more efficient, scoring 21 points on just 7-of-9 from the field, hitting both of his threes and all five of his free throws for the seven “bonus points” over and above just counting by two.

Oh, and Channing Frye had 19 off the bench on 8-of-9 and 3-3 from long range.

The Lakers overall shot 54.7 percent from the field and 54.2 percent from three, hit only four fewer free throws (19-15) on nine fewer attempts (27-18, an 83.3-70.4 percent advantage), and came up clutch in the extra frame to get that rarity of a double-digit overtime win.

Give it up for Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers’ unexpected best rookie:

Lightning Round!

Did you get the feeling before this game that New Orleans would find a way to choke it away just to make the West playoff narrative more fun?

Me neither, I was asking for a friend. The Pelicans beat Memphis 123-95 behind a combined 83 points from E’Twaun Moore (30), Anthony Davis (28), and Nikola Mirotic (25), all set up nicely by 13 assists from Rajon Rondo:

Miami won the return engagement with Atlanta, showing that at least one of the Wiz-Heat-Bucks combo isn’t tanking their way out of sixth to avoid the Cavaliers in Round 1.

Kelly Olynyk led the way with 19 points and a plus-26 in the 115-86 beatdown on the Hawks’ court.

And this was just cold-blooded by Udonis Haslem:

And finally, in your Tank Derby notes, Orlando beat Dallas 105-100, losing that crucial game on Atlanta in the draft sweepstakes. Aaron Gordon led the Magic with 20 points, while Jamel Artis continues to impress with his athleticism:

It’s Thursday, and you know what that means…Is He Any Good is coming later. We look at an unsung Pacers workhorse and ask the question of whether anyone the Pacers could’ve drafted 20th could be any better…you’ve probably guessed who it is by now, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!