Celtics Live Blog: Greg Stiemsma’s Tap-In Gives Boston 76-75 Preseason Victory in Toronto

Celtics Live Blog: Greg Stiemsma's Tap-In Gives Boston 76-75 Preseason Victory in Toronto

Wrap up: The Raptors had the two high scorers in Bargnani, who scored 16 points, and DeRozan, who scored 14. They also spent a surprisingly large amount of time on the court, however, at more than 32 minutes each. The Celtics, meanwhile, didn't have a player who logged more than Allen's 27:42. … The Raptors shot just 37 percent from the field and committed 21 turnovers. … Calderon had six assists and a single turnover, but he had trouble getting the Raptors into their offense. He especially seemed troubled by Bradley's defense in the fourth. … Allen led the Celtics with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting. … Rondo had eight of Boston's 18 team assists. … Raptors forward Ed Davis had the quietest 10 rebounds in NBA preseason history. … In a nutshell, why few people put stock into the NBA's plus/minus system: Wilcox, who had seven points on 3-of-5 shooting, five rebounds, a steal and whose energy was palpable, was a minus-8. Dooling, who missed four of his five attempts and committed two turnovers, was a plus-12.

End of game, Celtics 76-75: It's not often preseason games end with this type of excitement.

DeRozan, probably the Raptor's top star if not their leading scorer, was well-defended on a drive on the final possession. Bargnani tried to do his best Stiemsma impersonation by tapping in the rebound on the weak side, but as we all know, there's only one Greg Stiemsma, and he's wearing green.

The Celtics get a hard-fought victory in their first of two preseason games, and although Rivers said he doesn't care about the final score, there's some pride to take away from what Bradley, Johnson, Moore, Stiemsma and other Celtics reserves did down the stretch against the Raptors prime lineup.

Fourth quarter, :12.6, Celtics 76-75: With the game on the line, Moore is long on a floater, but Stiemsma stays with it and taps it in on his second attempt. Toronto takes a timeout and will have just one remaining.

The Raptors are using much of their regulars, including DeRozan and Bargnani. The Celtics have their C-team on the floor.

Fourth quarter, :26, Raptors 75-47: Bargnani hits a free throw to cut it to 74-73 and Johnson can't answer, as his jumper clunks short.

Calderon is having a ton of trouble getting past Bradley on the perimeter, and Johnson had to shake off some tough help defense in the paint. Johnson's second effort hops around the iron for a second before falling in. The Raptors take a 75-74 lead and Boston takes a time out.

Fourth quarter, 1:19, Celtics 74-71: Moore drops a free throw line jumper to give the lead back to the Celtics, and follows that with an elbow jumper to stretch the lead to three. The rookie has already shown a willingness for late-game shooting after the open scrimmage.

Fourth quarter, 4:02, Celtics 70-69: And the lead has all but evaporated as DeRozan lays in a bucket off an assist from Forbes. The Celtics take a time out to discuss how they want to attack these final few minutes.

On the plus side, Greg Stiemsma is in to help the Celtics protect this thin lead.

Fourth quarter, 4:55, Celtics 69-64: Johnson tries to run a pick-and-roll with Rondo, but the rookie is going to need to bulk up before that's going to work. Johnson doesn't quite have enough meat on his bones to set much of a screen.

It's a close contest now, and only Bass or Rondo seems comfortable holding the ball or shooting. Rivers said he doesn't really care about winning this game, but it wouldn't feel good to let this huge lead get away.

Fourth quarter, 7:00, Celtics 68-59: JaJuan Johnson makes his debut, and Moore makes another appearance as well.

The two rookies are on the court with Rondo, Bass and Brown. Allen and Rondo go to the bench and appear to be getting comfortable. Time to let this double-digit lead ride, apparently.

Fourth quarter, 8:02, Celtics 66-55: Rondo and Allen are back on the court to get some more seasoning in their legs. This is the first of only two preseason games, so there's no much time for the players to get their sea legs.

Fourth quarter, 8:35, Celtics 65-53: Garnett gets deep position in the post and receives the ball, but is fouled on the way up. He takes a tumble and, like most human beings, tries to use his hands to break his fall. The only problem is, Garnett is nursing a sore right thumb and such plays can be scary.

Garnett says an off-color word, checks out his hand, shakes it and gets up with no obvious pain.

Fourth quarter, 9:33, Celtics 65-51: Garnett is leading a reserve unit of Wilcox, Bradley, Dooling and Pitt product Gilbert Brown. This group is playing some tough defense, as one would expect of any group that includes KG.

Fourth quarter, 11:38, Celtics 63-51: Avery Bradley shows a bit of his inexperience after scooping up a loose ball. He drives past two Raptors and Dooling is wide open at the hoop, but Bradley tries to take it himself and his layup is blocked.

The refs bail him out with a foul, and he knocks down both free throws, but a simple bounce pass to Dooling might have made that easier.

End third, Celtics 61-51: Welcome to preseason basketball, ladies and gents. Daniels, Bass, Bradley, Dooling and Wilcox faced off with Bayless, Butler, Barbosa, Bargnani and Davis a the third-quarter buzzer.

Daniels is playing like the best player on the floor, and Bass isn't far behind. Not quite sure why Bargnani, Toronto's top scorer last season, is still playing against that unit having already played 25 minutes.

Third quarter, 2:09, Celtics 59-47: Bass and Wilcox are completely controlling the paint, and Dooling is wide open outside for a 3. The Celtics' lead is still in double digits with most of the starters on the bench.

Third quarter, 4:26, Celtics 54-42: If there was a single play that encapsulates the Raptors' issues, it was Bargnani standing at the top of the arc, without his dribble, and no guards coming to get the ball.

The sequence ends with Bargnani briefly giving up the ball, getting it back and then missing a fadeaway from the free throw line.

For one thing, it shows there is no take-charge floor general for Toronto. For another, it shows that Bargnani, in his sixth NBA season, still doesn't understand the importance of positioning. Contrast him to Dirk Nowitzki, another 7-footer who can shoot but who always catches the ball at least 20 feet and in. It doesn't matter that Bargnani can hit long jumpers if he's never in a good spot to shoot them.

Third quarter, 5:23, Celtics 52-42: Bass is showing his complete arsenal, knocking down another jumper, this one from the free throw line, after the Raptors sag off.

He has trouble again with a fast break pass from Rondo, but to be fair, Bass has never been an open-court player. He's best banging with his back to the basket or stationary from about 18 feet in.

Daniels and Rondo have no such trouble hooking up, though, executing a pretty give-and-go for an easy layup from Rondo to Daniels.

Third quarter, 7:20, Celtics 48-38: Bargnani gets a couple free throws and now he gains some confidence. He and Garnett jaw a little after Garnett is whistled for fouling him.

Third quarter, 8:28, Celtics 44-36: Gold star for trying, Rondo. After getting bumped about 70 feet from the hoop, Rondo launched the ball toward the rim as he was fouled. He appealed for three foul shots, to no avail.

Bargnani knocked down a 3, which is his most dangerous weapon, but Garnett is getting more aggressive offensively, forcing Bargnani to work on defense. Garnett knocks down an 18-foot- jump shot, dishes to O'Neal with a pass O'Neal can't handle, then drives and draws a foul.

Halftime analysis, Celtics 40-33: Everyone expected some sloppy play in the first preseason game, and that's no surprise. The play looks uneven, but that's a given when the Toronto Raptors are one of the two teams playing.

A quick look at the stat sheet confirms the sloppy play isn't just a subjective opinion. The Celtics have 10 turnovers and 10 assists, while the Raptors have nine turnovers compared to their 10 assists. Ideally, a team would like to be getting assists at a far higher rate than turnovers, because assists mean there's ball movement and scoring and turnovers mean pretty much exactly the opposite.

With so many new bodies in the front court, it's not surprising Rondo and the Celtics are a little off-balance. (Rondo's career assist-to-turnover ratio is almost 3:1.)

End second, 9:57, Celtics 40-33: A careless inbounds pass by Garnett is picked off by Calderon, and translates to an easy layup.

Even more careless by Toronto: Fouling Allen. Gary Forbes is whistled and the career 89 percent free throw shooter drains both free throws.

The Celtics end the first half with Allen, Dooling, Bradley, Rondo and Moore on the floor. Maybe Doc figures that's the only way to generate any challenge from the Raptors in the post.

Second quarter, 1:07, Celtics 38-29: Garnett is doing his 1967-68 Wilt Chamberlain impression by facilitating more than scoring.

Facing the basket at the elbow, Garnett found a cutting Wilcox for a nice pump fake and layup. Garnett has three assists yet just two points.

Second quarter, 2:30, Celtics 35-24: Say what you want about Rondo's vision and distributing, but some of his passes are downright uncatchable. Daniels had zero chance to cleanly catch an off-target, oddly spinning pass Rondo threw after he left his feet.

Second quarter, 2:54, Celtics, 35-24: OK, it looks like play time is over. The Celtics' first unit is in and starting to pull away.

Allen knocks down a baseline jump shot, then drills a fading 3 from the same corner. Bargnani misses something that looked like and flying double-pump scoop shot (again, this is a 7-footer, people) and the Celtics have their largest lead of the game.

Second quarter, 4:23, Celtics 30-23: The Raptors guard play is atrocious, and while Bargnani is their best big man, he has zero interest in banging down low on offense or defense.

Bargnani's lack of physicality might be masking some shoddy defensive play by Bass. Bass is working hard for positioning and has made a few nice moves on offense, but he's clearly not in rhythm with the rest of Boston's defense yet.

Second quarter, 5:11, Celtics 26-23: Allen and O'Neal play pick-and-roll on the right side of the floor and O'Neal is fouled en route to the basket. O'Neal is a threat to shoot or roll to the hoop on those screens, which makes him a dangerous pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop big man — when healthy.

Second quarter, 5:35, Celtics 26-23: When he's right, Daniels is a tough matchup: A little too big for guards, and little too mobile for big men. He just showed off one of his weapons by patiently dribbling into the paint and hitting a pull-up jumper.

The Celtics have been banking on him being healthy for the last two years. Could this be lucky No. 3?

Second quarter, 7:34, Celtics 22-19: Something must be wrong, because I could swear that was Rondo knocking down a jump shot, but as we all know, Rondo can't hit jump shots. Weird.

The jumper comes a play after Garnett gets a steal and makes an outlet to Rondo, who hands off to Bass for a two-handed dunk on the break.

Second quarter, 9:06, Raptors 19-18: Bass just had his "Meet Rondo" moment. The big man snuck between defenders on the break, but there was virtually no angle for Rondo to deliver a pass.

Rondo's made a habit out of find ways to make seemingly impossible passes, though, and he spun a bounce pass with a ton of English from near midcourt.

Bass wasn't expecting it, though, and the ball skipped straight out of bounds. Now you know, Brandon.

Second quarter, 10:27, Raptors 19-18: Interesting lineup right now for the C's: Rondo, Moore, Bass, Garnett, Bradley. Let's see how this goes.

End first, Celtics 18-17: Celtics fans are going to like Chris Wilcox. The former Maryland Terp brings energy with a putback basket and energetic defense and boxing out early. Three of the Celtics' "question mark" big men (O'Neal, Bass, Wilcox) have looked solid thus far.

First quarter, :34.6, Celtics 16-15: Jeryd Bayless is all over the place. The Raptors guard commits his second turnover by driving wildly into the lane and losing the ball. With scorers like Bargnani and DeRozan, the Raptors should be able to compete offensively, but their lack of a point guard who can create helps explain why they won 22 games last season.

First quarter, 1:59, Celtics 16-13: How anybody defends Leandro Barbosa is a mystery. The speedy Brazilian looks about set to trip over his own feet, then stops and drains a 3. Just like coach Dwayne Casey drew it up.

Rookie guard E'Twaun Moore checks in for his first action.

First quarter, 3:37, Celtics 14-10: Keyon Dooling drags his pivot foot and is called for traveling. Before anyone gets too tough on Dooling, keep in mind that he was a member of the players executive committee and was heavily involved in the lockout negotiations.

So while his teammates were able to spend the stoppage practicing and working out, Dooling had real work to do. It might take him a little longer to get back in basketball shape.

First quarter, 4:32, Celtics 14-10: Brandon Bass shows off some of his offensive repertoire by knocking down a 16-foot jump shot. That's the eliminate of Glen Davis' game that was inconsistent.

Bass isn't automatic from there, but he can knock down that shot and is a much better back-to-the-basket player on offense than Davis.

First quarter, 5:15, Celtics 12-10: O'Neal has been the camp MVP, according to coach Doc Rivers, and he's showing that to the sparse crowd in Toronto.

O'Neal now has four points, including a fall-away jumper that caught nothing but twine. Many of the players look a step slow or tentative, but not O'Neal.

First quarter, 6:46, Celtics 10-8: Since joining the Celtics, Garnett hasn't really had an offensively skilled big man to play a two-man game with in the post.

There are early signs that he and O'Neal might have something developing.

Both have been mobile in the low and high post, leading to some easy baskets. Garnett just made a nice pump fake in the post, drawing two defenders and then dropping it to O'Neal for a slam.

First quarter, 7:41, Raptors 7-6: One of the toughest things for players who are unfamiliar with each other to iron out is defensive rotation, as both teams showed on consecutive possessions. The Celtics were unable to get out in time on DeRozan, leading to an easy 3-pointer, and the Raptors failed to rotate to cover Allen, who dropped a wide-open trey.

First quarter, 8:41, Raptors 4-1: Rajon Rondo tries to post up Calderon and gets rejected by Johnson. On the next possession, Rondo does more of what Celtics fans have come to expect, hitting Garnett in the post for an easy two.

First quarter, 9:45, Raptors 4-0: Good sign with O'Neal coming over on the help defense to block a dunk attempt by Bargnani. O'Neal's defense will be pivotal for the Celtics to contend this season.

First quarter, 10:54, Raptors 4-0: Bargnani drops a baseline jumper, then a turnover by Allen leads to an easy dunk for Johnson on the break. We were warned to expect sloppy play here, and the Celtics are living up to that.

1:12 p.m.: The Celtics win the tip and are under way in Toronto.

Rondo, Allen, Daniels, Garnett and O'Neal start for the Celtics. Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Andrea Bargnani and Toronto native Jamaal Magloire, a 12th-year veteran out of Kentucky, will start for the Raptors.

1:05 p.m.: A player to watch in these preseason games in Jermaine O'Neal. He was limited to 24 games last season, but as recently as two seasons ago he was more than productive. It's unlikely he'll approach his All-Star caliber output of 2002 through '07, but the Celtics would gladly take the 17.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per 36 minutes that O'Neal put up for Miami in 2009-10.

For a player like O'Neal, who is entering his 16th NBA season, the per-36 numbers are probably more fair than the overall numbers since the days of him getting 35 minutes a night are probably over. What the Celtics are asking of O'Neal — to defend, rebound and occasionally score on the low block — most likely won't be reflected in his overall statistics even if he plays well.

12:37 p.m.: The quest for an 18th championship begins now, kind of.

The Celtics open their exhibition schedule Sunday afternoon in the first part of a home-and-home set with the Toronto Raptors. Because of the lockout, the usual eight-game preseason schedule was cut down to two games for each team against a geographically close opponent.

The Celtics are expected to struggle less than some other teams with the condensed schedule due to their veteran presence. The entire projected starting lineup for Christmas Day played together last season. The bench is a different story, though. Jeff Green's season-ending heart surgery puts a lot of pressure on new faces like Brandon Bass or uncertain commodities like Marquise Daniels.

Paul Pierce and Sasha Pavlovic did not make the trip up north.

8:45 a.m.: A shortened preseason camp has already taken its toll on the Celtics, who will enter the first exhibition game with injury questions to key players.

Paul Pierce is nursing a sore heel and is not expected to play. Garnett is questionable with an injury to his right thumb. Rajon Rondo's status is uncertain with a slightly sprained ankle. That means Celtics fans should get an opportunity to see such players as rookies JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore and newly acquired Brandon Bass in extended action in Toronto.

Join us for updates during the game, which is scheduled to tip off at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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