Paul Pierce scored a game-high 17 points with eight assists and six rebounds, but the biggest development of the game may have been the play of rookie forward JaJuan Johnson. Johnson entered early in the fourth quarter and finished with 11 points, hitting all five field goal atempts. Chris Wilcox, who played 18 solid minutes defensively and had five rebounds, was the only Celtic not to score. The Celtics finished the game with 30 assists on 39 field goals.
The Raptors looked completely lost without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani, although Ed Davis pulled down 12 rebounds.
The Celtics improved to 6-2 without Rajon Rondo, who reportedly could be back as soon as Friday against the Knicks, although Sunday against the Grizzlies seems more realistic.
Fourth quarter, 2:55, Celtics 96-59: The bench has been cleared, but the Celtics didn't stop coming at the Raptors.
Johnson added a nice post move, another jumper and a free throw to give him nine points in less than seven minutes. Greg Stiemsma also hit a short jumper on an assist from Moore to give Boston a 37-point edge.
Johnson, Stiemsma, Moore, Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels may take the Celtics the rest of the way.
Fourth quarter, 4:43, Celtics 89-58: The Celtics' frontcourt rotation has never looked so deep, thanks to the Raptors. Rookie JaJuan Johnson came off the bench and scored two quick baskets on a short jumper and a putback.
Bass hit a pair of free throws to increase his points total to 12 points. That's four solid performances off the bench for Celtics frontcourt reserves Bass, Johnson, Wilcox and Pavlovic.
Fourth quarter, 8:36, Celtics 80-53: Leandro Barbosa, who earlier in his career could boast that he was faster with the ball than most players are without it, turned back the clock a bit with two running layups to open the fourth quarter.
Pietrus knocked down a 3 to get the Celtics on the board in the final frame, and JaJuan Johnson will get some decent minutes after entering early in the fourth.
End of third quarter, Celtics 77-49: Bradley is playing this game as though he's heard the critics of his offensive game.
Bradley finished a Pierce pass down low and drew a foul, hitting the free throw to bring his scoring total to 11 points. That's his highest scoring output since he score 11 against the Nets on Jan. 4.
The Celtics have gone to the line just eight times, but they have converted seven of those opportunities. In 12 free throw attempts, the Raptors hit just five.
The Celtics also had just eight turnovers through the first three quarters and only one by Bradley.
Third quarter, 3:13, Celtics 77-47: In the past week, Celtics fans have watched their team give away an 11-point lead and nearly give away a 22-point lead. A 30-point lead should be in the realm of un-loseable.
Pierce found his stroke after halftime and drilled a 3 to give him 17 points, a game-high. He then found Allen for a 3 on the opposite wing, pushing the Celtics' lead to a solid 30 points. The Celtics have shot 59 percent from the field and assisted on 22 of their 30 field goals.
The Raptors have shot 36 percent and have just 12 assists.
Third quarter, 5:18, Celtics 66-45: Garnett didn't get 14 All-Star Game invitations off his scoring and defense alone. The 17-year veteran is also quite a distributor for a big man.
The Big Ticket showed his passing ability by finding O'Neal for two dunks early in the third. Along with a 3 and a short jumper by Pierce off an offensive rebound the Celtics were able to build their lead to as many as 24 points.
Halftime, Celtics 57-35: There are teams that are young, talented and just trying to figure it out. That was the Cleveland Cavaliers in a nutshell.
Then there are teams that need a lot of guidance or those aliens from Space Jam for them to have any hope of climbing out of the cellar in the standings. Say hello to the Toronto Raptors.
Despite a couple of nice individual players like Jose Calderon, Ed Davis and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors showed numerous holes in their game in the first half. Their 39 percent field goal shooting and 5-of-12 free throw shooting illustrated the work head coach Dwane Casey has in front of him, if indeed he's the man to help this team improve.
The Celtics assisted on 17 of their 23 field goals in the first half, although Garnett's 3 with less than a second remaining wasn't one of them.
The Good: It always helps when a player decides he's not going to miss, and in the first half that was Brandon Bass. Bass shot 4-for-5 from the field and 2-for-2 from the free throw line to give him 10 points in just 17 minutes. … Sasha Pavlovic was a key part of the rotation for the Cavs when they went to the Finals in 2006-07, and over the past few games for the Celtics, he has shown why. Pavlovic knocked down two 3-pointers, blocked a shot and made two sneaky ball deflections in the post. … Jose Calderon is just about the only Raptor generating any offense. He is 0-for-5 shooting but has five assists, and deserves credit for almost all of center Aaron Gray's eight points.
The Bad: James Johnson is not shy, having attempte six shots, including one 3. He's missed all but one of those shots, though, and committed three fouls.
The So-so: Gray, the pride of Emmaus, Pa., scored eight points on 4-for-5 shooting, but don't put too much stock in his offensive numbers. Calderon had a lot to do with the 27-year-old center's scoring, and Gray missed all three foul shots he attempted. Nobody but Gray deserved credit for the six rebounds (two offensive) he grabbed, however.
Second quarter, 3:23, Celtics 46-28: Allen picked up right where Pavlovic left off, hitting a jumper and a 3 sandwiched around a three-point play by DeRozan.
Second quarter, 5:48, Celtics 41-25: The Celtics' best all-around reserve is most likely Sasha Pavlovic, and he seems to prove it a little more every time he plays.
Pavlovic knocked down two 3's and made two alert knock-aways on defense as the Celtics' second unit fared better than expected in the second quarter. His second 3, off a hand-off by Allen, put the Celtics' lead back at 16 points.
Second quarter, 7:37, Celtics 34-23: Be aware of your surroundings, Aaron Gray.
The center out of Pitt was whistled for a defensive three-second violation and protested that he was touching an offensive player. (A defender can stand in the foul lane for more than 3 seconds as long as he is within arm's reach of an offensive player.)
There was only one problem with Gray's protest. The "offensive" player he was touching was his own teammate, James Johnson.
Second quarter, 10:47, Celtics 29-19: The question of the moment is, who will score for the Celtics from their unit of Bass, Wilcox, Moore, Pietrus and Pavlovic.
Those five players can make some shots in the flow of the offense, but there's not a playmaker in the bunch.
End of first quarter, Celtics 29-16: Bass kept his stroke in rhythm by adding another jumper, and the Celtics' young backcourt chipped in as well to help the C's take a 16-point lead at one point in the first quarter.
Bradley scored a driving layup in traffic and rookie E'Twaun Moore stayed with his own miss to tip the ball in and give the Celtics a 29-13 lead. La Salle's finest Rasual Butler took care of that with a 3, but the Celtics still closed the first quarter with a decided advantage.
First quarter, 2:45, Celtics 20-9: Brandon Bass and the Celtics got off to a hot shooting start, but it was a defensive highlight that allowed them to take a double-digit lead.
Mickael Pietrus chased down DeRozan on a fastbreak and poked the ball away, leading to a pick-and-roll by Pierce and Bass that ended with Pierce finding Bass for a midrange jumper. The bucket was Bass' second in two attempts, and added to a perfect 2-for-2 from the free throw stripe, Bass took the early lead in scoring for the Celtics with six points.
The Celtics shot 57 percent overall through the first nine minutes. The Raptors shot much worse at 33 percent, but much more glaring was their 1-for-6 mark from the foul line.
First quarter, 6:56, Celtics 13-8: Every member of the Celtics starting lineup scored in the first 5:04, including Bradley on a fallaway jump shot.
Allen hit a jumper and a layup, Garnett and O'Neal hit jumpers and Pierce hit a 3-pointer. None of those were surprising, but Bradley — who is shooting 38 percent — swishing an elbow jump shot brought oohs from the crowd.
Bradley has to make that shot to become a viable pro player, pure and simple, or he'll have a short career.
7:40 p.m.: The Raptors haven't won in Boston since 2008, when we were all young and innocent and the "Big Three" was a new concept to a generation of Celtics fans. As bad as the Raptors have been in recent years, especially this season, the Celtics should not expect to walk away with this one.
Five of the Raptors' seven wins have come on the road. That's a weird flip-flop of how young teams usually perform at home and on the road. The Celtics also average just 87.2 points per game at home, according to STATS, which is the second-lowest home average in the NBA.
7:25 p.m.: Anyone who watches the games can tell Bradley is a great defender. Just how good is he?
According to the statistics website Basketball Value, Bradley has a -3.48 defensive rating. That means opponents are almost 3 1/2 points worse per 100 possessions when Bradley is on the court. That's the fourth-highest defensive rating on the team behind O'Neal, Garnett and E'Twaun Moore, although Moore hasn't really played enough for his numbers to be relevant.
For anyone who is wondering, All-Defensive guard Rajon Rondo has a poor defensive rating of 5.82, which means teams score close to three extra baskets per 100 possessions against the Celtics when Rondo plays. He was slightly better last season, but he's had a negative or roughly even impact on the team points-wise since the stat was invented.
The lesson is, don't assume Rondo is a great defender just because he averages two steals a game.
7:15 p.m.: All the hopeful kids wearing No. 9 jerseys in the TD Garden stands will be disappointed, because their favorite player is again out of the lineup for the Celtics.
Rajon Rondo will miss his eighth straight game with an injured right wrist, pushing Avery Bradley into the starting lineup. The defensive specialist doesn't get much of a break after two consecutive games chasing rookie sensation Kyrie Irving. Bradley goes up against Toronto point guard Jose Calderon, one of the league's most underrated playmakers. Calderon averages 10.3 points and 8.5 assists per game.
Andrea Bargnani, having arguably the most complete season of his career, is out for the fourth straight game. The Italian big man has a strained left calf and is not with the team.
The projected starting lineups are below.
8 a.m.: After sweeping three games last week against two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are in the midst of a slate that is much less formidable. Two consecutive games against the Cavaliers did not garner the two victories the Celtics hoped for, though, and they'll take another crack at a mediocre squad when the Raptors visit the TD Garden on Wednesday.
Jermaine O'Neal returned Tuesday and Ray Allen stepped back in Monday, giving the Celtics two crucial players who were missing due to injury. Point guard Rajon Rondo remained a noteworthy scratch Monday as he continued to be day-to-day with a strained right (shooting) wrist.
Join us for updates and analysis as the Celtics look to defend their home floor starting at 7:30 p.m.