Kyle Lowry denies National Championship game affected his play vs. Cavs

Five Keys Cavaliers vs. Raptors   
    
      
  Mark Blinch  NBAE via Getty Images

As Dwane Casey frequently points out, no outcome in any single game - or, in this case, set of games - at this time of the year will make or break them. It can give teams a level of confidence they wouldn't ordinarily have, directly fueling their offensive and defensive capabilities, or it can make a team spiral out of control, sinking their playoff hopes. Momentum starts in the regular season and carries over to the postseason. "We've got to think long term". The Celtics trimmed three games off their deficit during a six-game winning streak that was snapped Tuesday, and would clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker with a win Wednesday.

Still, the Raptors trailed Boston 20-15 after the first. When the game mercifully came to an end, Boston had fallen to the Raptors, 96-78. "So, it will really be fascinating to watch the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs, in the heat of battle, which is so extraordinarily different when the playoffs arrive", Burke said. Toronto had won the previous meeting 133-99 as a 2.5-point home underdog back on January 11, so this is the rubber match between the teams before a potential matchup in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in three years.

The Celtics are red-hot. For the red-hot 76ers, it's the one just in front of them: LeBron James and the reigning East champs from Cleveland on Friday.

Cavaliers: James passed Kobe Bryant with his 942nd 20-point game, third-most in league history.

Boston's top scorer is guard Kyrie Irving. Toronto's minor league affiliate can become the first repeat champion since Asheville won in 2004-05.

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The Toronto Raptors are Raptoring; Golden State survived Russell Westbrook's onslaught and more from Tuesday's National Basketball Association action. Toronto led by double digits the rest of the way. A Raptors team that scored a mere 14 first-quarter points on 6-of-23 shooting was more than happy to feast on easy transition points. Brad Stevens deployed it in the fourth and Casey didn't have an answer, not for a lack of effort in searching for one. "You're looking for five guys that are going to compete and we did". That's not generally a recipe for success.

The problem, however, is with the idea that you have to play both the Cavaliers, and one of the Celtics and Raptors, while the other will only have to prepare for one of the two.

"To be a good team, that's how you have to respond", said DeRozan. Last time he played at Madison Square Garden, Giannis Antetokounmpo jumped over Tim Hardaway Jr. for a dunk in one of his highlight plays of the season.

Tuesday's grudge match with Cleveland should be just as interesting. Toronto scored 29 points off turnovers.

He looked better in Wednesday's opening quarter, sinking a three-pointer and dishing out three assists, while DeRozan led Toronto with five points. "These games, playing against a good team like Cleveland, a good team like Boston will help us get ready, harden us, showing some things we need to be better in". Keep in mind the Cavs have a few injuries going on for their roster with George Hill out, and both Kevin Love and Kyle Korver considered "questionable". But the night wasn't all bad for the third-year guard as he managed to haul in a game-high nine rebounds. Meanwhile, the Cavs are 8-2 over their last 10 games. Love totaled 13 points and 13 rebounds in a 98-87 home win over the struggling Dallas Mavericks on Sunday while LeBron James posted a triple-double with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. He remains a problem.

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