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Rondo, Rasheed, Triple Trouble for Raptors

Rajon Rondo continues his assault on the league and his march toward stardom with a triple double against the Celtics’ kissin’ cousins, the Toronto Raptors. Rajon finished with 22 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds.

Rasheed Wallace dropped triples of his own on them with 5 three point shots made ( 7 attempts). Wallace, starting again for the injured Kevin Garnett, had his biggest offensive game as a Celtic. He led Boston with 29 points on 9 of 12 shooting. His previous Celtic best was 20 points.

There are just some teams that the Men in Green have little respect for, even with their emotional and defensive leader out of the line up. I said before that the Raptors area  highly skilled team. They are even playing solid defense now, holding opponents to an average of 94 points over their 9 game run. That number is skewed somewhat by a 94-64 beating of the Pistons, but still solid.

Yet, when it comes to a playing against a physical team like the Cs, the word soft still comes to mind. The Cs don’t seem to regard Atlanta highly enough and now get beat because of it. The same can’t be said for the Raptors. They were of 8 of 9 in wins coming in, but the Cs beat them for the 7th straight time.

Raptors Declawed
Boston pushed a game Chris Bosh (31 points) a little further towards the free agency door as they stopped a three game Raptor winning streak and 6 game Toronto home winning streak this time. The undermanned Cs squashed a Raptor five game winning streak on Jan. 2, without Rajon Rondo in that game.

It is like the little brother that keeps playing his stronger, better older brother in the back yard. No matter how hard he tries, the result is always the same.

The Celtics maintained a lead, tenuous at times, for the entire game. After making multiple runs throughout the game, the Raptors made it interesting almost to the very end by getting it to within 4 with 1:46 left at 104-108. Perkins then made two huge free throws after missing four straight up to that point and Pierce hit an 18 foot elbow jumper to put it out of reach.

Fast Celtic Start, Raptors Chase Cs

The Celtics started the game fast with a 10-0 run. Rondo drives and dishes to Wallace and Perkins for lay ups to start things out. Then Ray And Paul drained three pointers. It was looking too easy, and they had the Air Canada Center as quiet as library. But the Cs don’t seem to really have a blow out mentality with KG out.

The Raptors quickly answered back with a 13-7 run to get it down to a three point lead, 13-16. The Raps continued their run, getting to 19-21 with 4 minutes left, before Rondo banked in an end of shot clock three pointer. Rajon then made a fast break lay-up off a Raptor miss to get it back up to 26-19.

Rondo finished the quarter with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

Eddie House came alive in the second quarter with 8 points and two threes in a row to keep the Raps at bay. It seems like it’s been a while since Eddie has really impacted a Celtic win. He finished with a respectable 11 points on 3 of 9 from downtown, but no assists, rebounds or steals.

Everybody Loves Ray

Ray Allen hit a difficult mid range banking jump shot over the outstretched arms of Jose Calderon in the second period. Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram has a good article on Ray and mentions Ray attacking the basket more this season…

So Rivers has urged Allen to take the ball to the basket when his defender rushes out at him, and he has. Allen is averaging 4.09 layups or dunks this season compared to 2.86 a year ago. When Allen drives, opponents are careful not to foul him because he’s a career 89.3 percent foul shooter.

Jack Jemsek of CelticsStuffLive also delves into the positive effect Ray Allen has on his team mates…

Where Ray Allen separates himself from his team mates is in his “off court” plus-minus stats.  Imagine that – there’s a stat for what you do when you’re not on the court!  Ray Allen is the only Celtics player where the opponents outscore the Celtics when the player is not on the court.  The Celtics are -2.6 per net 48 minutes when Ray’s not playing.  No other Celtic can claim to have a negative “off-court” effect on the team, and it is not even close.  This pushes Ray’s net contribution (add on-court, subtract off-court) to +13.8.

Coincidentally, (or not) Ray’ s plus/minus was a team high +13 in this contest. Quiet Ray just plays, passes, scores, and draws enough attention to keep the court spaced for everyone else.

Sheed, Bosh, And Bargnani

Rasheed Wallace, Chris Bosh and Andre Bargnani displayed the kind of offensive talent from 6′ 11 and 7′ players that only the NBA provides. They all hit multiple jump shots and three pointers through out the game and especially in the 3rd period. Bargnani scored 11 points on two three pointers, a dunk, a jump shot and a free throw in the 3rd.

Wallace countered with three three pointers of his own, to go into the 4th quarter with 22 points. Bosh added 10 points on 3 jumpers, including his banker and 4 free throws

Bargnani looks much more confident, aggressive and smoother lately. Besides hitting the open three, he demonstrated he can score off the dribble and was taking it to the middle with more success in this game. While Bosh’s offensive capabilities are well known, he put on a clinic with 19 first half points and kept it up in the second half.

Boston extended the lead to 15 points 70-55, then the Raptors closed to within six at  80-74 on two Jarrett Jack free throws. Ray Allen hit a jumper and Rondo stole a pass, getting the ball to Perkins for a right side 10 foot jumper to go back up 84-74. The Celtics had it back to a 13 point lead as the 3rd quarter ended on a Rondo lay up 83-70.

Celtics Close with Clutch Play

The 4th quarter saw the Raptors close to 108-104, but Perkins was fouled by Jack after grabbing a rebound and made two clutch free throws after missing his previous four straight tries. Then Rasheed made a huge steal off a Bargnani pass and Paul Pierce hit just his 4th basket of the game, a  18 ft. right side jumper to ice the game  112-104 with 46.5 left. Perkins blocked a Hedo Turkoglu left side running jumper for his 4th block of the game right after that.

Rondo’s 13 assists were largely fundamental, but he had a nice lead pass with reverse spin on it, putting right in Paul Pierce’s hands for two on a fast break off a Bellinelli drive and miss that was rebounded by Wallace. It was like one of those moving timing passes in football.

Though the Raptors just beat San Antonio and Orlando, they haven’t been able to solve division leader Boston. It has been rumored lately that Bosh is leaning towards testing free agency this summer. That has led to more rumors of teams trying to trade for Bosh before Feb 18th, the trade deadline. An offer of Andrew Bynum from the Lakers was said to have been rebuffed.

Rondo All Star Campaign Continues

Rondo was 9 of 17 shooting and made his 3rd straight three point shot. That alone is cause for celebration. He added 4 steals and made 3 of 4 foul shots, another skill he seems to be improving everyday. Rondo is 17 of 21 from the free throw line in his last 4 games.  If Rondo can hit outside shots even semi-regularly, he becomes a monster to defend. Continue foul shooting like he has and the sky is the limit for his potential.

Rasheed Wallace came up big with the 29 points in just 34 minutes, including 5 of 7 three pointers, and 2 blocks, a huge steal, and no turnovers.

Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kendrick Perkins all had 16 points a piece, and Eddie House was the 6th Celtic in double digits with 11 points in 16 minutes. Glen Davis shot only 1 for 5, blocked twice, had 2 turnovers, a steal, and was out of sync offensively but added 6 rebounds, (5 offensive) and drew a timely charge in 18 plus minutes.

It is understood that the Celtic defense is just not the same with Garnett out. That is why winning 114-107 was okay. The Raptors are an extremely capable offensive team (rated 5th of 30).  The Celtics shot 50.6% to the Raptors 48% on the night.

As Butch Cassidy said to Sundance, “Just as long as we come out ahead.”

Before fouling out after 43 minutes, Bosh led both teams with 31 points and 13 rebounds. Andre Bargnani supported Bosh with 23 points on 8 of 16 shooting, 4 of 7 three point shots, and added 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, a steal. Bargnani looked better today than I have seen him, as he is appearing to assert himself more as time goes by.

The Celtics look for payback as they play tonight in Boston against the Atlanta Hawks. The Cs have lost both games they played with the Hawks this season.

Thomas Halzack

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