Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo Dishes Out 20 Assists in Return as C’s Douse Raptors 107-89

Game over, Celtics win 107-89: Even as he was slightly hobbled by a twisted right ankle, Rajon Rondo directed the Celtics to a decisive victory over the Raptors.

Rondo dished out 20 assists to extend his streak to 33 games with at least 10 dimes. Jason Terry, with 20 points, and Paul Pierce, with 19, led an even scoring attack as nine Boston players scored at least six points. The Raptors got double-digit scoring efforts from six players, but their defense was too awful to make any offensive aspects relevant. The Celtics shot 57 percent and had 37 assists on 43 baskets, easily moving two games above .500.

Fourth quarter, 2:52, Celtics 103-83: Casey opted to stick with his bench, still that was the group that cut into the lead. It did not go so well for the Raptors.

A Quincy Acy goaltend, Bass jumper, Barbosa free throw and Wilcox layup stretched Boston’s lead back to 20 points and pretty much put this one in the books.

Gino time.

Fourth quarter, 5:15, Celtics 93-80: Ross has not gotten a ton of burn (only 64 minutes of action total) but he made it count during apparent garbage time. The rookie out of Washington scored seven points in a four-minutes span to cut Toronto’s deficit to 13 points.

Thanks to Ross, there was a chance that “garbage time” would turn into “meaningful time” if the Raptors maintained the attack.

Fourth quarter, 8:31, Celtics 85-69: Contrary to all evidence, the Raptors are allowed to score.

After Bargnani hit a three with 5:28 left in the third, the Raptors decided not to make any baskets again for a little while. That strategy backfired — or at least worked out exactly the way anyone would expect — as they fell behind by as many as 21 points. Finally, rookie Terrence Ross hit a three more than three minutes into the fourth quarter to end the drought.

End of third quarter, Celtics lead 79-64: The Rondo-to-Wilcox alley-oop combo is so easy, it is almost as if opponents do not even scout it.

Rondo lobbed the ball to Wilcox for the third time in the game to bring the fans to their feet at the TD Garden. Since Bargnani’s free throws, the Celtics were on a 16-3 run and Wilcox’s dunk made it seem like even more. Once again, a dunk may have proved to be worth more than just two points for the Celtics.

Oh yeah, and ‘The Jet’ glided down the court again after rattling home a three.

Third quarter, 1:55, Celtics 71-62: The Jet took flight. It remained to be seen if the Celtics did, too.

After draining his second trey of the quarter, Terry stuck out his arms and “flew” back down the court as Casey signaled for a timeout. As close as two points a moment ago on a pair of Bargnani free throws, the Raptors saw their deficit balloon to nine points thanks to Terry and Sullinger, who banked home a tough driving layup in traffic.

Third quarter, 2:49, Celtics 66-61: The Raptors have an annoying tendency to forget that Bargnani is not Dirk Nowitzki. They call a handful of Nowitzki-like isolations for the 7-foot shooter every game, and those possessions rarely generate anything positive.

Moving Bargnani around is the better course of action, as he showed in the third quarter. Bargnani flashed off a screen and was fouled by Bass as he attempted a jumper. It was the second straight Raptors possession on which Bargnani was fouled.

Rondo connected with Wilcox on another lob — naturally — and Terry drained a 3-pointer to keep Boston’s lead intact, but the Raptors could put more pressure on the Celtics by avoiding those stagnant plays with Bargnani.

Third quarter, 10:07, Celtics 51-42: The Raptors apparently forgot about their push to get back into the game in the second quarter, because they came out of halftime playing a lot like they did after the opening tip.

Bass dunked and Garnett hit a step-back jumper off Pierce’s assist to extend Boston’s lead to nine points, drawing a swift timeout from Raptors coach Dwane Casey. The Raptors were not playing exceptionally well, but Casey probably realizes this is a chance to steal a win against a division opponent and they should not let the opportunity slip away.

Halftime, Celtics lead 47-42: Somewhat overlooked in the Celtics’ chemistry struggles, their efforts to adapt without Garnett on the court and Rondo’s balky ankle has been Pierce’s continued difficulty with his shot. He came into this game shooting .412 from the floor, the lowest of his career next to the 2003-04 campaign, when he barely cracked 40 percent from the field.

He found his way to a team-high 13 points at halftime against the Raptors, mostly by trying really, really hard to create his offense. Pierce was 2-for-5 from the field in the second quarter alone and 5-for-11 overall, and was just 1-for-4 from three.

Fortunately for the Celtics, Rondo was back to his surgical ways with the offense. He handed out 11 assists — we won’t comment on the legitimacy of three or four, which came after Garnett, Pierce or Terry dribbled, up-faked, pivoted and then, finally, scored their baskets — to stretch his streak of double-digit assist games to 33. He had all except six of Boston’s 17 assists, which came on 20 baskets.

Do not give the Celtics too much credit for their offense, though. The Raptors allowed more than 100 points per game, the fourth-most points allowed in the league.

Second quarter, 3:26, Celtics 40-36: Watch out for John Lucas III. The diminutive point guard, who has struggled the latch on with an NBA team, scored eight of Toronto’s first 19 points in the second quarter, and his 3-pointer suddenly made it a four-point game. Rivers looked exasperated several times, and not just by Lucas’ hot shooting.

Jared Sullinger decided to take Linas Kleiza one-on-one, and when Sullinger was blocked at the rim, Rivers stood looking stern with his hands on his hips. When Pierce was trapped in the corner, Rivers called a timeout, not looking pleased.

Second quarter, 8:55, Celtics 33-19: The Raptors will never be mistaken for the Steel Curtain on defense, so it was pretty surprising to see the Celtics held without a basket more than three minutes into the second quarter. But while Boston was not converting field goals, Garnett at least got to the line. All three of the Celtics’ points came at the charity stripe, where Garnett was 3-for-4.

After logging almost 10 minutes in the opening quarter, Rondo took a seat to begin the second. Barbosa started the quarter at the point.

End of first quarter, Celtics lead 30-17: Maybe it was Toronto’s defense (or lack thereof) or maybe it was Rondo’s presence, but Boston’s offense was almost flawless in the opening quarter.

The Celtics assisted on 11 of their 14 baskets and shot 74 percent from the floor. Rondo had seven dimes and only two turnovers, while Pierce, who is struggling with his shot from the field, went 3-for-6 for a game-high eight points.

First quarter, 4:22, Celtics 18-11: If Rondo felt any ill effects from that twisted right ankle that kept him out of Thursday’s game in Brooklyn, he did not show them early in Saturday’s game. The exception was when he had trouble twisting around a screen and got out on Calderon late, fouling the Raptors point guard in the act of shooting.

Other than that, Rondo was active. He assisted all three of Garnett’s hoops and tossed an alley-oop to Chris Wilcox. (Those two are good for at least one of those a game now.)

12:09 p.m.: Courtney Lee admitted his schedule was thrown all out of whack by the early tip. Normally, the fifth-year veteran gets lunch and a two-hour nap between shootaround and gametime, but because of the early turnaround he only had to time for a quick breakfast and walkthrough before getting ready for the game.

Did he expect to be sluggish?

“We’ll see today,” Lee said. “I haven’t had one of these games in three years. Other than that, it’s still a game. Gotta approach it the same way, home team versus away team. Refs are going to be there, crowd’s going to be there, so like I said, just gotta approach it the same way.”

Afternoon games are a treat for Rivers, who enjoys having extra time after the game to prepare for the next one. In the Celtics’ case, that is Sunday in Detroit. Rivers admitted he never loved these games as a player, however, even though there were far more of them in the 1980s and ’90s when he played.

“We used to have tons of them,” Rivers said. “I never liked them, but we had a lot of them. With an afternoon game, as a player, if you were playing great you loved it that day. But if you were playing poorly, you always felt it was very difficult to pull yourself out of it, because you haven’t had your normal mental preparation to get ready for the game.”

With that, Rivers hopes his team — particularly Rondo, who will be testing his injured ankle early on — gets off to a fast start.

12 p.m.: Rajon Rondo refused to divulge any information about his playing status in the locker room before the game, saying only that he was a gametime decision. Thankfully, Celtics coach Doc Rivers was less coy.

“Rondo is playing,” Rivers told reporters about an hour before gametime, before anyone had a chance to even ask the question.

After Rivers provided that update, a reporter dropped an even bigger bombshell on the coach. Rivers was unaware Hostess was going out of business, drawing a dismayed reaction.

“Twinkies went out of business! That sucks,” Rivers said. “I haven’t had one in like 30 years now, but I’m sure it’s still in my body.”

The projected starting lineups appear below.

Raptors
Jonas Valanciunas
Andrea Bargnani
Dominic McGuire
DeMar DeRozan
Jose Calderon

Celtics
Kevin Garnett
Brandon Bass
Paul Pierce
Jason Terry
Rajon Rondo

8 a.m. ET: Anybody watching the last couple of Celtics games might come away assuming point guard is the most hazardous job in sports. Rajon Rondo is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Raptors, who are also missing their own point guard in Kyle Lowry, who is out for at least another week with a bruised ankle.

To top it off, Nets point guard Deron Williams came up lame but did not leave the game during the Celtics’ loss in Brooklyn on Tuesday.

With the head floor generals sidelined, both teams will lean on some guys who might not be totally comfortable playing the point. Jose Calderon is one of the best backup ones in the league, but Raptors coach Dwane Casey may need to get minutes at the position from DeMar DeRozan and even John Lucas III. The Celtics do not have a backup as capable as Calderon, so coach Doc Rivers may need to keep his committee approach with Leandro Barbosa, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and even Paul Pierce and Jeff Green.

Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the early game, which tips off at 12:30 p.m. ET.

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