For a while it looked like no one would miss.
While the main turkey carving went on Thursday, the Celtics were apparently just practicing as they carved up and ate up the Raptors last light in a return to action. Stuffing? Plenty, as two Kevin Garnett alley oops, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins added rim fillers…and there were lay-ups and short jumpers galore.
For one half, both teams were feasting on cordial defenses, obviously leftovers from Thursday’s festivities. For a while, it was hard figuring out who would be Friday’s turkey.
It was the Celtics that turned up the heat in the third quarter, breaking open a very close game and roasting the Raptors the rest of the way.
Ray Allen, with 20 points, led a balanced, highly efficient scoring attack by the Celtics as they had 6 players in double figures while Marquis Daniels just missed the club with 8 points.
The Celtics won their third straight game to go 12-4 and extend their Atlantic Division lead to 5.5 games over the second place Raptors.
Paul Pierce stoked the fire offensively in the third quarter while, like a David Copperfield magic trick, the Celtic defense appeared out of nowhere.
Pierce also laid a vicious driving dunk on Chris Bosh and got a technical for glaring at the downed Bosh after wards. Replays showed that Pierce’s foot kicked Bosh on the dunk somewhere in the mid section on the collision.
Two starters didn’t miss a single shot all night as Kendrick Perkins was 8-8 for a season high 18 points and Kevin Garnett went 6-6 for 12 points.
The Celtics took advantage of a suspect Raptors’ interior defense to score a season high 68 points in the paint, while ‘holding’ the Toronto combine to .557 shooting for the game. Boston had their fourth best shooting percentage game in the last ten years (according to Mike Gorman), finishing at a sparkling .623
After a solid pre-season win against this same team, Kendrick Perkins said then that ‘you can’t be what you aren’t’, meaning tough inside.
The Raptors are 21st in the NBA in points in the paint defense allowing 43.2, but are even worse in the NBA on the road, allowing 52 points in the middle (tied with Memphis for last).
Celtic Defense Sighting
The Celtics’ vaunted defense, close to being featured in one of those History Channel’s Past Myths and Legends shows, finally made a rare but documented appeared in the third quarter. I have the film to prove it. It was enough to break open a tight game.
The team defense looked good, aggressive, and on a string as they held the Raptors down for an extended period, while they came back to take a commanding lead they would never relinquish.
Steadily efficient all year long, Paul Pierce led a third quarter offensive hoop aggression with 8 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Combining with the first and only solid team defense of the game, Pierce made a number of difficult shots in traffic, while adding some solid defense of his own. Pierce also exploited some weak defense by Marco Bellinelli, finishing with 18 points and did not play for most of the 4th period.
Pierce added 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and two steals.
Point guard Rajon Rondo did much of the carving with 11 assists overall. A number of them were things of beauty and dissections of two or more Toronto players in the heart of the painted area for lay-ups. Rondo added 12 points of his own.
Kendrick Perkins looked as sharp offensively as I have ever seen. Rasheed Wallace had suggested he slow down offensively, that he rushes things a bit. He did and Perkins looked smooth even muscling a few shots in traffic. Perkins dropped in 18 points for his season high.
Garnett seemed to not be able to get a break with the referees, ending up with 5 fouls. He kept composed and finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds in just 28 minutes. It was his 3rd straight game without a steal or blocked shot. That would be unusual for a completely healthy Garnett, but Doc is bringing him back slowly, and obviously some things will come along more slowly.
Rasheed Wallace was the only bench player to have a positive plus/minus (+4). Besides his 4 steals, he had a blocked shot and looked better in the post. He had the three point shot going and finished with 15 points on 6 of 11 shooting overall.
Shelden Williams, Daniels, and Eddie House were less effective, though Williams did add 6 points and 2 rebounds in 10 minutes.
After allowing 22-33 shooting for the opening half, they held the Raptors powerful offense (4th highest scoring in the NBA) to just 6-19 shooting (31%) including 7 straight minutes where the Raptors went scoreless. The Celtics went on 13-0 run to go from 4 down to a game changing lead of 70-61.
Both teams were shooting a ridiculously high percentage through one half. The Celtics were hitting at .676 and the Raptors were at .667 as the Celtics drove deep to the rim almost at will, and the Raptors were doing much the same.
In addition to the solid strategy to take it to the rim all night, the Celtics shot a solid .417 from the three point line, led by Ray Allen’s 3-4 and Rasheed Wallace’s 3 for 6.
But the Celtics created 25 Toronto turnovers (15 steals) leading to 24 points. The Raptors scored 19 points off 16 Celtic turnovers. Wallace and Rondo each had 4 steals, and Ray Allen added 3 more.
Rebounding has been a problem at times this season for Boston. The Celtics started off rebounding well, holding the Raptors to just 2 first quarter rebounds while grabbing 8 of their own. From there the Raptors took over and out rebounded the Celtics the rest of the way 29-19 to finish with a 31 to 26 advantage.
Due to a frustration with the refs, Doc Rivers got a technical, as did Wallace and Perkins. Though the Celtics attacked the hoop all night, they shot 15 foul shots to Toronto’s 23 attempts. In the end they didn’t need it, running the lead as high as 17 points, before the Raptors would whittle it down to 10-12 points.
Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu led Toronto with 20 points each, with Bosh adding 13 rebounds. Jarrett Jack had 18 points and 5 assists off the bench.
Both teams has 22 fast break points.
The Celtics hope to build on this as they head to Miami for a game on Sunday.