TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors want DeMar DeRozan to assume the role of fourth-quarter finisher.

He played the part Friday night, shutting the door on one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

DeRozan scored 13 of his 22 points in the third quarter and made four pivotal free throws down the stretch as the short-handed Toronto Raptors held off the Boston Celtics, 84-79.

“I just try to be aggressive,” DeRozan said. “A couple plays I saw an opportunity to get to the basket and I did. I should have made it and had an and-one but that’s what it’s all about. Getting to the line and knocking down your free throws.”

DeRozan was 13 of 13 from the line as the Raptors ended a four-game losing skid despite being without two of their top players. Andrea Bargnani was shut down for the rest of 2011-12 with an aggravation of a lingering left calf injury that forced him to miss nearly half the season, and point guard Jose Calderon was still feeling the effects of a right eye bruise and was kept out as a precaution.

Paul Pierce’s 18 points led the Celtics (34-25), who nearly wiped out a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit, but fell short in the opener of a stretch of six games in six cities over an eight-day span.

Boston remained three games ahead of Philadelphia atop the Atlantic Division.

Kevin Garnett had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, and Rajon Rondo dished out 12 assists, giving him 20 straight games with double-digit assists.

“They’ve been playing some decent basketball and have always been known as a hard- working team,” Garnett said. “They shared the ball and were aggressive. We couldn’t hit shots or get any stops. Tough game.”

The Celtics used full-court pressure and timely shot-making to erase Toronto’s double-digit edge, pulling within one on a three-point play by Pierce with 38.8 seconds remaining. DeRozan drew a foul on Toronto’s next possession and made both free throws to make it 78-75, but Pierce answered with a one-handed slam to trim the deficit with 20.5 seconds left.

“I just thought the way we set the tone to begin the third quarter just changed the game,” Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. “I told our guys you can never activate a team and I thought we did that. They haven’t won a lot of games and once they felt like they had a chance to win, they made great shots and made great plays.”

Two more free throws by DeRozan extended the lead, and Pierce missed badly on a game-tying 3-point attempt.

“I don’t know if it’s fatigue from going through a rough schedule, end of the week you know it’s crazy because we have three games in a row,” Pierce said. “We should have come out with better urgency.”