TORONTO -- Together, theyve logged 10 seasons of mostly disappointment with the Toronto Raptors. Friday night, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson wrote the perfect ending to the Raptors 105-103 victory over the Boston Celtics that -- finally -- sent the Raptors into the playoffs for the first time in six years. "It makes it feel all worth it, honestly, the hard work, the struggles, the nights going home where youre just frustrated and dont want to turn on sports," DeRozan said. "It really shows you that if you stick at it and dont give up -- not to sound cliched -- it definitely pays off." DeRozan scored 30 points to top Toronto, including a fadeaway jumper with 34 seconds left. Johnson had a relatively quiet night with eight points and eight rebounds, but it was his putback on a miss by Kyle Lowry with seven seconds left that sealed the win. "Amir knows," DeRozan said. "Weve been through tough times here where we just look at each other like You cant give up now, youve got to learn from it, even when things are going bad. Thats what we did." When reporters walked into the post-game dressing room, Johnson was on his phone with his grandma Dora. "Dora the Explorer, thats what I call her," Johnson said, smiling. "She said shes proud. "This team has worked so hard," he added. "We were playing our butts off, playing through injuries, weve had our ups and downs. But we made it. It was just coincidence at the end of the game that it was me and DeMar making two clutch shots, the players who have been here the longest, so it meant a lot to clinch our spot in the playoffs." Terrence Ross added 17 points, while Greivis Vasquez finished with 15, and Jonas Valanciunas had 13 points and eight boards for Toronto (41-31). Former Raptor Jerryd Bayless led the Celtics (23-49) with 20 points, while Jeff Green finished with 16. The Raptors went into the night with a two-and-a-half game lead over Brooklyn for first in the Atlantic Division and tied with Chicago for the No. 3 seed in the East. They needed a win or a loss by the New York Knicks in Phoenix to secure their spot in the playoffs. But the win didnt come easily against a team the Raptors had beaten in Boston 99-90 two nights earlier. Against a team that has been all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, Toronto led by only single digits until late in the third quarter and took an 85-73 advantage into the fourth in front of a capacity crowd of 19,800 at the Air Canada Centre. DeRozan scored Torontos first 10 points of the fourth and his basket with 8:03 gave the Raptors a nine-point lead as they looked headed for certain victory. But the pesky Celtics fought back with a 15-2 run and a basket by Canadian Kelly Olynyk with 3:07 left put the visitors up by four. The game was tied with 1:14 to go before DeRozan scored, then Rajon Rondo replied to even it up with 27 seconds left. Then with the crowd on its feet, Johnson darted in to tip in the winner. The crowd went mad. The cheerleaders danced. Kool and the Gangs "Celebration" blared over the loudspeakers. "My hat is off to all the guys who have come through here, to DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson, whove been through it all, and to the fans for being understanding and being patient," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. "It was fitting for those two guys, because theyve been through thick and thin and good times and bad times." DeRozan said it was sweet to soak in the applause from the fans, and praised them in the post-game locker-room. "It just sums up everything these past four seasons that weve been through, that it was all worth it," DeRozan said. "Since Ive been here, the fans have been sticking behind us through the tough times, you cant ask for better fans than that. It aint like these fans started coming around this season, our fans have been here from the gate, when we were playing bad, having 20-win seasons. "Just to see it turn around and be able to share that with our fans is definitely cool." Lowry, who had scored 20-plus points in the previous eight games, finished with nine points playing on a heavily-taped ankle after rolling it late in the first half when he stepped on Avery Bradleys foot. He limped to the locker-room, had it taped at halftime and returned to start the second half. Torontos first-round opponent will be determined over the final 10 regular-season games. If the playoffs started today, the Raptors would face the sixth-place Washington Wizards. Other potential first-round opponents: the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets. By all accounts, the Raptors werent expected to do much this season. The turnaround started after a blockbuster seven-player trade in early December sent Rudy Gay to Sacramento. Casey said theres still plenty of work to be done, especially on the defensive end, before the playoffs begin. But he took a moment to talk about the growth of his team. "Its understanding of what it takes, the belief that defence wins, the commitment of: togetherness wins, binding to the culture. . .," Casey said. "The guys who have bought in, they understand what it takes to win and theyve seen the fruits of it. The roots are in the ground for what our culture is about." Olynyk, a Celtics rookie, finished with 10 in 19 minutes. Olynyk was born in Toronto and spent 12 years here before moving to Kamloops, B.C., with his family. He grew up a Raptors fan -- his mom Arlene was a scorekeeper for the NBA team. His dad Ken coached the University of Toronto basketball team for 13 seasons. The Raptors got out to a slow start and trailed for most of the first quarter despite shooting 58 per cent, but came to life in time to put together a 32-26 lead going into the second. A driving layup by DeRozan six minutes into the second quarter gave the Raptors a nine-point advantage, but the Celtics used a 13-3 run to take a one-point lead two minutes before halftime. Toronto took a 56-53 lead into the locker-room at the break. The Raptors finally put together a double-digit lead in the third, taking a 12-point lead on a three by Vasquez with 1:48 to play. NOTES: Casey said injured Patrick Patterson is "a little sore but making great progress." Casey said Patterson, a key player off the bench, could return to action Sunday or Monday. . . The Raptors are at Orlando to face the Magic on Sunday, then head to Miami to play the Heat on Monday. . .Rondo played Friday with the bridge of his nose bandaged; Rondo received nine stitches on Wednesday after an errant elbow by Vasquez. Delano Hill Jersey
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. -- The Windsor Spitfires were left with just one goaltender Tuesday after having their starter walk out on them midway through Game 3 of their Ontario Hockey League playoff matchup with the London Knights. GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After being introduced at centre ice, the new owners of the Phoenix Coyotes made their way down a red carpet in front of the team bench. Instead of just walking past and down into the tunnel, they pumped their fists at the players, shouted words of encouragement and slapped hands with anyone who was near the boards. The enthusiasm carried over onto the ice, sparking a rousing start to a new era in the desert. Radim Vrbata scored three goals, Mike Smith stopped 23 shots, and the Coyotes opened their first season with an owner in four years by routing the New York Rangers 4-1 on Thursday night. "It was real exciting for us to see how excited those owners were on the ice," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "When they walked back in front of the bench, they looked like they were living their dream, just like were living our dream with the jobs we have." With NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in attendance, the Coyotes introduced each member of the team and coaching staff before the game, then had the group of owners from IceArizona take their turn at centre ice. Charged by the raucous cheers for the owners and the playoff-like atmosphere inside Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes jumped on New York early, answered the Rangers lone goal quickly, and ran away behind Vrbatas second straight hat trick -- dating to last season -- and fifth career. Kyle Chipchura also scored, Martin Hanzal had two assists, and Smith made some tough saves on a pair of early penalty kills, including one from his stomach on a shot by Benoit Pouliot. "Thats what everyones been waiting for the past four years," Vrbata said. "The fans liked it, we liked it on the bench and took advantage of it early on. Thats a good thing." The Rangers withstood Phoenixs initial surge in their first game under new coach Alain Vigneault, tying the game on Marc Staals power-play goal early in the second period. New York was no match for the Coyotes the rest of the way, missing on a couple of scoring chances while giving Phoenix too many, particularly during and after a power play in the second period that led to Vrbatas first goal. "If we get out of that period, keep the momentum after that power-play goal, it might be a different game," Rangers centre Brad Richards said. "Little details that we can control, and we got ourselves in trouble with those penalties." This opening night in the desert was one many didnt think would ever come. Ownerless since 2009, the Coyotes spent the previous four years playing under the shadow of an uncertain future. That changed over the summer, when George Gosbee, Anthony LeBlanc and the rest of IceArizona followed through where so many suitors had failed, purchasing the franchise from the NHL for $170 million. The deal revitalized the fan base and immediately triggered a change of fortune, givinng Phoenix the financial footing to compete with the NHLs other 29 teams.dddddddddddd They got the new era off to a great start, playing the kind of stay-at-home, counterattacking game theyve developed under Tippett in front of a sellout crowd of 17,125. "We competed well. We played how we need to play to be successful," Tippett said. "Smitty made some big saves, got a couple of big plays from some players, and its a good way to start." The Rangers went into this season with a fresh start of sorts, as well. Following the firing of coach John Tortorella, New York turned to Vigneault. The former Vancouver coach brought with him a softer voice than the growling Tortorella -- not a hard thing to do -- and promised an aggressive, attacking style. The Rangers faced some big obstacles to start the season, though. Captain Ryan Callahan was out for at least the opener, and forward Carl Hagelin will be out at least the first 10 games, both with shoulder injuries. New York also starts with a daunting road trip, playing nine games in 23 days away from home because of renovations to Madison Square Garden. The Rangers looked sluggish early in the opener, and Phoenix capitalized with Chipchura scoring on a one-timer off a feed from Rob Klinkhammer from behind the net. New York picked up the pace late in the first period and early in the second, tying it early on a goal by the defenceman Staal, who beat Smith with a wrister to the stick side. It was all Coyotes after that. Vrbata scored less than four minutes after Staals goal, collecting his own rebound and lifting it over Henrik Lundqvist. Vrbata made it 3-1 early in the third period on a power play, beating Lundqvist from above the left circle on a shot through traffic. He put the game away and sent the hats flying to the ice by completing the natural hat trick on a 4-on-4, punching in a rebound after creating a turnover behind New Yorks net. Vrbata also had three goals in last seasons finale against Anaheim. "That second goal really turned the game back to their favour," said Lundqvist, who made 28 saves. "It was a tough one." NOTES: The Coyotes said Vrbata is the first NHL player to have a hat trick in a season finale and in the opener of the next season since Los Angeles Luc Robitaille in 1988. He is also the first Coyotes player to open a season with a hat trick and the first to have an opening-game hat trick against the Rangers. ... Phoenix will play its next five games on the road, starting at San Jose on Saturday night. ... Rangers C Dominic Moore was on the ice for the first time in over a year after missing last season due to the death of his wife, Katie. ... Rangers C Derek Stepan, who signed a two-year contract late in training camp, had an assist. ... Phoenix played without D Rostislav Klesla (concussion) and F Paul Bissonnette (suspension). Cheap Jerseys Online Wholesale Authentic Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Online Cheap Jerseys 2020 Stitched Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Free Shipping Cheap Jerseys Wholesale
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