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DeMar DeRozan powers Raptors to comeback win over Celtics, 114-106

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TORONTO (AP) DeMar DeRozan scored a season-high 41 points, Kyle Lowry had 24 and the Toronto Raptors rallied to end the Boston Celtics’ four-game winning streak with a 114-106 victory on Tuesday night.

DeRozan added 13 rebounds for his second double-double of the season and Jonas Valanciunas had 18 points and a career-high 23 rebounds. The Raptors bounced back after losing to Chicago and Houston over the weekend.

Toronto also kept itself above Boston in the Eastern Conference standings. A win would have pulled the Celtics even with the Raptors for second place behind Cleveland.

Isaiah Thomas had 27 points and Marcus Smart had 16 for the Celtics.

The game had nine lead changes in the first half. Boston pulled in front on Gerald Green‘s layup with 3:54 left in the second quarter and led until Lowry’s 3-pointer with 2:41 remaining in the game. With 5:05 to play, Boston was ahead 102-95, but the Raptors closed on a 19-4 run to clinch the victory, their second of the season over Boston.

Both high-powered offenses struggled in the first quarter, with the Celtics shooting 36.4 percent from the field and the Raptors not much better at 37.5. Toronto led 23-18 after 12 minutes.

Boston improved in the second quarter, shooting 66.7 percent, with Smart adding nine points and Green matching him off the bench. The Celtics closed on a 13-3 run over the last four minutes to take a 55-46 lead into the interval.

Boston led by 16 in the third quarter, but then DeRozan rallied the Raptors with 19 third-quarter points to get within 84-80 heading into the fourth.

TIP-INS

Celtics: G Avery Bradley (right Achilles tendon) missed his second straight contest, while G James Young (right ankle) and C Tyler Zeller (sinus infection) both continued to sit out. … Boston dropped to 6-2 against Atlantic Division opponents this year, with both its defeats coming against Toronto.

Raptors: F Patrick Patterson made his first start of the season. … Toronto stayed a perfect 6-0 against Atlantic Division opponents this season. … For the third time this season, the Raptors wore their blue Toronto Huskies road uniforms and played on an alternate court with the logo of the Huskies, a team from the NBA’s inaugural 1946-47 season which lasted just one year before folding. Toronto is now 3-0 wearing the uniforms.

BENCH BATTLE

Because the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching staff is prohibited from working the All-Star Game in consecutive seasons, staffs from Toronto and Boston are vying to represent the Eastern Conference for the game next month in New Orleans. The reward goes to whichever team has the best record after Feb. 5. “That’s a real honor to be part of a team that’s in a position to do that,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said.

OH, CANADA

The national anthem singer flubbed a couple of lines during the singing of O Canada before the game, and the crowd at the Air Canada Centre joined in to help out and see her through to the end.

UP NEXT

Celtics: Host Washington on Wednesday night looking for a fourth straight home win over the Wizards.

Raptors: Host Brooklyn on Friday night in the second of five straight games against Atlantic Division opponents.

Jamal Crawford says Lonzo Ball should not change his shot

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Lonzo Ball‘s shot has become a running gag around the NBA. During pregame warmups this season it looked like LeBron James and Joel Embiid mocked/tried to imitate it. TNT’s Inside the NBA was asking if it was worse than Charles Barkley’s golf swing, and the crew on that show mocks it all the time.

Ball is shooting 30.3 percent overall this season, and 23 percent from three. He’s shooting just 42.1 percent in the restricted area (it’s not just his jumper that is off). He’s shooting 37.5 percent on pull-up jumpers. He’s shooting 22.5 percent on shots when there is nobody within six feet of him (stats via NBA.com).

Is it time to tear down Ball’s awkward release and rework his jumper? Jamal Crawford, a guy who knows something about getting buckets in the NBA, said no, speaking on CBS Sports’ Flagrant 2 Podcast.

“No, I wouldn’t (change his shot). He’s done it his whole life. Even if he struggled, I’m sure he’s struggled, but when he makes 10 in a row you won’t change it then so I’d just keep it consistent.”

Crawford also said he sees a real star in Ball.

“Star. Absolutely a star. I love watching him play. He plays the right way. He doesn’t play for stats. He’ll give the ball up early when he could easily hold it to get an assist. He’s making the right play if it was a hockey assist he’d get 20 a game cause he’s always passing up early. He seems like a great teammate. If you look at all his interviews…he’s always well spoken he’s always about the team.”

Luke Walton has the Lakers players taking and making 100 threes at each practice, and he continues to encourage Ball to shoot his way out of this slump. Magic Johnson has said the Lakers would not change Ball’s jumper during the season.

But if Ball does not find a rhythm and is under 40 percent for the season on jumpers, come next summer the Lakers have some decisions to make. And tearing down and rebuilding Ball’s shot is a long process that will take more than one summer of hard work.

PBT Podcast: Celtics win over Warriors, all things Boston with A. Sherrod Blakely

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The Boston Celtics are for real.

In case you had any doubts, they ran their streak to 14 wins in a row by coming from 17 down – twice — to beat the Golden State Warriors. The Celtics have the best defense in the NBA, and it threw the Warriors off their game, something few teams have been able to do over the past few years.

Kurt Helin welcomes in A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston to talk about what this win means to the Celtics, why their defense is so good, how Kyrie Irving is fitting in, how young stars such as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are rising up, and what is the deal with Marcus Smart. Also, there is a lot of Brad Stevens love.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Grizzlies’ Mike Conley out at least two weeks with sore heel, Achilles

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Injuries are already starting to shape the playoff chase in the West — Rudy Gobert is out for at least a month in Utah, and the Clippers have lost six in a row as they battle injuries to three starters.

Now add the Memphis Grizzlies to the mix.

Mike Conley, the point guard who, along with Marc Gasol, is crucial to Memphis’ success, will be out at least two weeks to rest a sore left heel and Achilles, the team announced Friday. He could be out longer, Conley has had issues with this Achilles before, the team will want to be cautious, and by far the best treatment is rest.

Conley averages 17.1 points per game, is a great floor general running the offense, and is a quality defender at the point.

Memphis is 7-7 on the season and tied with Oklahoma City for the final playoff slot in the West, but the Grizzlies have dropped six of their last eight. What’s more, they are entering a gauntlet part of the schedule without Conley: Their next game is against Houston, then Portland, and in the next 10 they have the Nuggets, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, and Spurs (twice). The danger is they fall far enough back from the playoff chase they struggle to catch up again.

Expect to see a lot more Tyreke Evans, who has been strong as a sixth man but now will have much more asked of him. Also, more playmaking duties will fall to Gasol, working out of the elbow, and both Chandler Parsons and Mario Chalmers will get the ball in their hands. The question is what do they do with it.

Stephen Curry, was Warriors/Celtics a Finals preview? “Very, very likely, right?”

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The Golden State Warriors remain the prohibitive favorite to win the NBA title.

Thursday night, the Boston Celtics earned some validation that they belong in the conversation. Using a stymieing defense that threw off the vaunted Warriors offense, Boston came from 17 down in the third quarter to beat the Warriors.

With the Cavaliers stumbling out of the gate, does this make the Warriors/Celtics game a Finals preview? Stephen Curry (who was 3-of-14 shooting with four turnovers on the night) said yes, as you can see in the NBC Sports Bay Area video above.

“Very, very likely, right?” Curry said. “They’re playing the best right now in the East. Obviously, they need to beat Cleveland, who’s done it three years in a row. We’ll see, but I heard the weather’s great here in June.”

The weather in Boston is great for a short window in the spring, then the humidity kicks in. But that’s not the point.

I came into this season thinking the Celtics were a year away still, and when Gordon Hayward went down it strengthened that belief. But this team is a contender now — they are far better defensively than expected, and young players Jaylen Brown (22 points against the Warriors) and Jayson Tatum have stepped up more than expected. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have developed a fast chemistry. And Brad Stephens is proving he is in the very upper echelon of NBA coaches.

It’s not even Thanksgiving, talk of the NBA Finals is premature. Curry is right, the Celtics still have to go through LeBron James and his Cavaliers to reach the Finals, which will not be easy.

Still, June basketball in Boston seems like a real possibility again.