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On the second night of a back-to-back – with first place in the Eastern Conference already wrapped up – the Toronto Raptors easily could have packed it in after falling behind by 17 points.

That’s not what coach Dwane Casey wanted.

”We are taking these last games seriously [url=http://www.authenticslosangelesrams.com/cheap-john-kelly-jersey]John Kelly Jersey Elite[/url] , because now isn’t the time to let any bad habits into our game,” Casey said. ”This week is about sharpening your habits to be ready for next week.”

Jonas Valanciunas scored 25 points, and the Raptors rallied for a 108-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night. Toronto closed the second quarter on a 21-7 run, and the Raptors also scored the first 13 points of the fourth.

Detroit was without injured stars Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin for its home finale, but the Pistons still led 53-36 in the first half. But it was 60-57 at halftime, and Detroit managed only 38 points over the final two quarters.

”I think we competed hard,” said Eric Moreland, who started at center in place of Drummond. ”I think we competed on both ends tonight.”

The short-handed Pistons are out of playoff contention, and Toronto had some key players out too in Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka. Although the result meant little, it was a tight, entertaining game through three quarters. The Raptors led 85-80 at the end of the third before breaking it open.

Toronto led 100-81 in the fourth, then Detroit went on a 14-2 run. Pistons rookie Luke Kennard took a 3-pointer that would have cut the deficit to four [url=http://www.buccaneerscheapshops.com/cheap-authentic-m.j.-stewart-jersey]Authentic M.J. Stewart Jersey[/url] , but it rattled out.

Valanciunas didn’t play at all in the fourth, but he’d done plenty already. He finished 11 of 13 from the field and made his only attempt from beyond the arc.

HELD OUT

In addition to Drummond (sore Achilles tendon) and Griffin (right ankle contusion), the Pistons were also without Reggie Bullock (left knee swelling).

VanVleet was out with lower back tightness, and Ibaka had the night off to rest for Toronto.

LOOKING AHEAD

The game didn’t mean much in terms of seeding in the East, but Toronto (59-22) now leads Golden State (58-23) by a game for home-court advantage in a possible NBA Finals matchup.

The Raptors are also hoping to win their regular-season finale at Miami and reach 60 victories.

”We want sixty, because we know it would be a great achievement for our franchise,” said guard Kyle Lowry, who scored 11 points Monday. ”The important thing, though, is what happens after the Miami game. We’re ready. It doesn’t matter who we play. We just have to play our game.”

HANDICAPPING

Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy shared his thoughts on Toronto’s chances in the East.

”I’ve said for a long time, I think they’re the best team in the East, and the team to beat [url=http://www.authenticsnewyorkgiants.com/cheap-will-hernandez-jersey]Will Hernandez Jersey Elite[/url] ,” Van Gundy said. ”So, we’ll see what happens, but that’s a really, really good team.”

TIP-INS

Raptors: DeMar DeRozan scored 16 points. … Toronto outscored Detroit 60-38 in the paint. … The Raptors completed a sweep of their back-to-back after beating Orlando on Sunday night.

Pistons: Kennard led Detroit with 20 points and Reggie Jackson scored 16 with nine assists. Ish Smith had 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

UP NEXT

Raptors: Visit the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.

Pistons: Visit the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.




WASHINGTON — With their first Stanley Cup playoff berth since 2012 safely in hand, the New Jersey Devils have one game left to see if they can improve their position when they visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

The Devils (44-28-9) clinched a playoff spot by defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on Thursday night at the Prudential Center.

“We did it. We didn’t rely on anyone. It’s a sense of accomplishment,” Devils forward Brian Boyle told nhl.com. “The battling for playoff positioning and trying to clinch, it’s all part of the fun of it. Emotions rise, tensions rise, you work hard and you get rewarded. We did it together.”

The Devils will finish with at least 97 points — 99 if they defeat the Capitals — far above the 70 points by last season’s club that finished at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division.

With one game remaining, the Devils are in position to clinch the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They can finish as high as third in the Metropolitan Division or as low as the second wild-card spot.

Against the Leafs, New Jersey fell behind 1-0 in the first period, but Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood scored in the second period. Keith Kincaid finished with 31 saves [url=http://www.authenticsdetroitlions.com/cheap-da_shawn-hand-jersey]Da'Shawn Hand Color Rush Jersey[/url] , including 12 in the third period.

The Devils also earned this spot, going 10-2-1 in their past 13 games.

“It’s a credit to a lot of guys in here for just coming up big when the pressure is on,” forward Taylor Hall told nhl.com. “That’s what I’m proud of, how we’ve played through the stretch here.”

Washington’s playoff position is set, though their opponent is not. The Metropolitan Division winner will draw the top wild-card team, which may not be decided until Sunday when the Florida Panthers face the Boston Bruins.

The Capitals (48-26-7), the two-time defending Presidents’ Trophy winners, watched the Nashville Predators secure this season’s trophy with a 4-3 win over the Capitals on Thursday night at Capital One Arena.

“But I like the way we’re playing,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz told The Washington Post after the Capitals lost for just the second time since March 20. “We’re playing with lots of speed, we’re playing with lots of pace, and that was a good test.”

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice for Washington and Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 47th goal, meaning he will need a hat trick Saturday night to reach 50 goals for the eighth time.

“Right now [url=http://www.jetsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-thomas-rawls-jersey]http://www.jetsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-thomas-rawls-jersey[/url] , our focus is not on 50, our focus is on the playoffs,” Ovechkin told nhl.com. “And being in shape. We didn’t get hurt. That’s the most important thing.”

Kuznetsov, who added an assist, posted his 82nd point of the season and became the 16th player in franchise history to reach 80 and the first player other than Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to do it since Alexander Semin in the 2009-10 season.

Kuznetsov’s 27 goals this season are a personal season high.

Phillip Grubauer made 25 saves for Washington. Braden Holtby will likely start against the Devils, and the wait will begin for Trotz to reveal his playoff goaltending plans.

In Holtby’s last three starts, he is 2-1-0 with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.

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