Somewhere in the third quarter, the Celtics hit the easy button and turned a tight game into a laugher. They outscored the Raptors 60-40 in the second and third quarters combined, but it was not until Paul Pierce made a concerted effort to get to the line in the third that they really pulled away.
Jeff Green had 20 points to lead a balanced Celtics offense that placed seven players in double figures. The Celtics shot better than 50 percent from the field until late in the fourth, when they emptied their bench with the Chinese league all-stars. The Celtics got to the foul line at will, shooting 28-for-35 on free throws while the Raptors were just 17-of-19.
Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan, with 19 points and 17 points, respectively, led Toronto in scoring.
Fourth quarter, 5:28, Celtics 96-72: They say “you can’t trust the media,” but I’ve got to give “the media” credit on Crawford. Everything that was written or said about Crawford turned out to be true.
Crawford is every bit the wild scorer and flawed defender he was made out to be, and he can shoot his team into a game just as quickly as he can shoot them out of it. Right now, he is shooting the Celtics into a large lead, teaming up with Terry, who has three 3-pointers, to give the Celtics 12 points each from those backup guards.
Fourth quarter, 11:00, Celtics 81-62: Bradley started to get under Telfair’s skin in the third quarter, and it appears to have run the Toronto guard out of the game. Telfair, who swung an elbow at Bradley late in the third quarter, was hit with a second technical foul and ejected from the game some time around the end of the quarter or during the break.
End of third quarter, Celtics 81-62: The Celtics almost seem to have looked at their recent box scores, with their opponents shooting far more free throws than they have, and decided to make up for it all in this game.
Heading into the final 12 minutes, the Celtics are 23-for-29 from the foul line. The Raptors are just 11-for-12. Pierce alone is 9-for-11, and the Celtics shot 19 freebies in just the third quarter.
Crawford is showing signs of being just the “wild card” Rivers is looking for off his bench. The streaky scorer has scored just like that — in streaks — with back-to-back buckets late in the third to go with his back-to-back buckets in the first half.
The Celtics finally have the wide lead they should have had all game. Let’s see if they can keep this one intact.
Third quarter, 2:58, Celtics 69-60: The Celtics have once again extended their lead, only this time they are doing it with defense. That is the way Rivers probably prefers it, and it might be a method more likely to stick. Bradley’s open-floor layup after a turnover helped restore a double-digit lead momentarily. Anything less than an eight-point lead for the Celtics at this point is too much of a let-up.
Third quarter, 5:33, Celtics 60-56: Whoever wants to win this game, please stand up.
The Celtics and Raptors seem to be exchanging half-hearted attempts at taking over this game, but neither team seems all that committed to the idea. Since taking a 13-point lead on a pair of free throws by Pierce, the Celtics have been outscored 16-7 and have not really generated much in the way of a quality shot.
In milestone news, Pierce became the second player on the Celtics to pass a Hall of Famer on an all-time list in this game. Pierce just moved past Charles Barkley into the top 20 in scoring in NBA history.
Halftime, Celtics 49-40: Like Jeff Green, the Celtics just seem to be taking it too easy. That is why it’s fitting that Green has keyed the Celtics’ efforts to build their lead.
Green, who acknowledges that his style looks nonchalant at times, leads everyone in uniform with 12 points at halftime. His teammates are looking for him and getting him the ball in position to drive to the hoop, such as Pierce dishing to Green on a give-and-go for an and-one layup late in the first half.
Garnett has recovered from his horrible shooting night in Charlotte to go 3-for-5 from the field so far, adding seven boards and three steals. The Celtics are outrebounding the Raptors 18-16 and hold a 26-16 advantage in points in the paint.
Gay has nine points for the Raptors.
Second quarter, 4:03, Celtics 37-32: Well, it looked like the Celtics were about to run away with this thing, anyway.
Since Terry’s alley-oop to Garnett at the 6:33 mark, both teams have gone cold. Telfair hit a tough step-back jumper, but that is the only scoring either side has done in the last 2:30. The Celtics just cannot seem to keep from playing down to their competition, apparently.
Second quarter, 6:20, Celtics 37-30: The Raptors sorely need to talk things over, because Terry has finally shown signs of the Celtics seizing control of this game.
After a 3-pointer by Sebastian Telfair pulled Toronto within two points, Terry sized up Telfair before draining a three in his face from the top of the key. Terry then played some games with the ball on a string and tossed a lob to Garnett for a dunk out of a pick-and-roll.
Second quarter, 8:58, Celtics 26-24: Rivers complained about his team’s desire to “trade baskets” early in Charlotte, which led to their demise late when they could no longer match the Bobcats shot-for-shot. They may be doing the same thing here, as they have pushed back into the lead but are far from taking control of this one.
In the meantime, Garnett banked home a baby hook to pass Jerry West for 15th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
End of first quarter, Raptors 22-21: The “cool” Celtics are back.
After leading the entire first quarter with hustle and rebounding, the Celtics suddenly stopped playing with the same fervor in the final two minutes of the quarter. the Raptors closed the quarter on a 10-3 run, helped along by technical fouls on Pierce and Terry.
This is the “cool” approach Rivers criticizes from time to time when the Celtics play down to their level of competition, as they did in their previous game against the Bobcats. That game had something of an excuse with Pierce resting, though. There would be no excuse for dropping this game.
First quarter, 2:37, Celtics 18-13: As they should against a team like the Raptors, the Celtics’ secondary players have made an imprint on the action. Picking up where Bass and Lee left off, Wilcox has attacked the basket as Rivers has implored him to do.
Wilcox finished a pick-and-roll with Pierce with a thunderous dunk, then picked up an and-one on a putback. Wilcox missed the free throw, but the message was clear. The Celtics are coming to play and will not be caught taking an opponent lightly for a second straight night.
First quarter, 5:23, Celtics 14-9: What started out as the Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee show finally got a few other members when the rest of the Celtics realized that it was OK to score.
The Celtics took a 9-7 lead on a baseline jumper by Lee, with all nine points being scored either by him or Bass, and Rudy Gay came back with a layup over Pierce to tie it. With that, Pierce and Garnett decided to get involved, and the result has been predictably positive for Boston. The Celtics have built a lead and Pierce looks rejuvenated after taking Tuesday’s game off.
7:05 p.m.: The Celtics will be back at full strength, or at least what amounts to full strength for them now, with Paul Pierce back in the lineup. Kevin Garnett will suit up as well, although Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that he would like to get the 36-year-old big man at least a game or two of rest before the regular season ends.
Rivers also had some interesting things to say about Wes Welker signing with the Denver Broncos, and found the situation similar to Ray Allen’s departure for Miami last summer.
Pierce will have a tough matchup across from him in Rudy Gay, who is active despite a sore back. There are not (new) significant injuries for either side.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: OK, so the first part of this back-to-back didn’t go the way the Celtics planned. With Paul Pierce taking the night off, the Celtics “laid an egg” in Charlotte on Tuesday, in coach Doc Rivers’ words, dropping their second straight game and losing a bit more ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Now, after failing to take care of business against the league’s worst team record-wise, the Celtics (34-29) get a crack at another of the league’s bottom-feeders. The Raptors (25-39) have been tougher since acquiring Rudy Gay, but they are still a team the Celtics should beat. The Raptors are 8-8 since the January trade with Memphis, but they have lost five of their last six games and have no realistic shot at the playoffs. This should be a walkthrough for the Celtics — emphasis on “should be.”
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.