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Celtics beat Raptors in battle for top spot


BOSTON—Isaiah Thomas has started a new trend that's growing with each fantastic fourth quarter.

Thomas scored 19 of his 44 points in the final quarter to lift the Boston Celtics over the Toronto Raptors 109-104 last night in a showdown for first place in the Atlantic Division.

When Thomas hits a shot in the fourth now, his teammates and many in the stands look down at their wrists—simulating looking at a watch to signal that it's Thomas' time.

“I just did it one game and it kept going,” he noted.

“I've got teammates, the fans, signs, everybody in social media is saying: 'You know what time it is.'”

In his last game, Thomas had 24 points in the fourth quarter in a victory over Detroit.

He's had four games with 20 or more in the fourth. No other player in the league entered play last night with more than one.

“You have to trap him and get the ball out of his hands,” said Raptors' guard Kyle Lowry.

“He got three wide-open looks in the fourth. That can't happen.”

It was the fifth-straight win for Boston, which moved 1.5 games ahead of the Raptors in the division and holds the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed.

Jae Crowder scored 14 points for the Celtics while Al Horford had 11.

Thomas had 18 of Boston's final 23 points.

“He's playing at a really high level," Celtics' coach Brad Stevens said of his 5'9” point guard.

Lowry led Toronto with 32 points, former Celtic Jared Sullinger had 13, and Norman Powell added 12.

The Raptors now have lost seven of nine.

“He's more patient than ever,” Sullinger said of Thomas.

“He runs through the offence slowly and finds a way to score.”

In a final quarter that rivalled playoff intensity, Celtics' forward Jaylen Brown was fouled on a breakaway attempt and walked over and had words with Lowry before a few others player joined in and had to be separated by the officials.

Boston's Terry Rozier and the Raptors' DeMarre Carroll each were given a technical foul.

Raptors' guard DeMar DeRozan was out for the fifth time in six games with a right ankle injury.

Toronto next visits tomorrow in the second of three-straight games on the road.

They've split two meetings against the Magic this season.

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