With Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry sitting out the entire game and Paul Pierce taking a seat for the second half, the Celtics closed the regular season with a blowout loss to the lottery-bound Raptors. DeMar DeRozan exploded for 15 points in the third quarter to finish with a game-high 24 points as Toronto led by as many as 33 points. Jordan Crawford led the Celtics with 16 points.
The Celtics next take the court this weekend in New York for Game 1 of their playoff series against the Knicks.
Fourth quarter, 6:35, Raptors 105-74: Ever since we expressed some reservations about DeRozan, he played like a man on a mission. DeRozan dropped 15 points in the third quarter alone to give him 24 points for the game, which should be enough for him. Raptors coach Dwane Casey has given guys like Lucas and Aaron Gray plenty of run in this fourth quarter, as both these teams look to just close out the regular season.
End third quarter, Raptors 96-70: We have a Fab Melo sighting, so if you did not believe what we were saying before about this game jumping the shark, hopefully you do now.
In five minutes of action, Melo had a very Melo-like line of zero points, zero rebounds, one steal and four fouls. The Raptors have followed the Celtics’ lead of emptying their bench, only unlike the Celtics, the Raptors reserves actually hit shots. Lucas has five points, and Landry Fields, who has not had success doing much of anything in his first season in Toronto, has six.
Third quarter, 5:26, Raptors 79-60: Not that we don’t enjoy your company or anything, but what are you doing here? Seriously, there is a perfectly good Jazz-Grizzlies game going on, with the Jazz fighting for their playoff lives, that is just begging for you to watch.
The game is on ESPN. Go ahead, click over. Just leave your laptop open and we will update you on anything worthwhile that occurs here. Honestly, get out of here. This thing is ugly — the Raptors got their lead up to as many as 23 points — and is likely to get uglier.
Third quarter, 10:34, Raptors 67-51: OK, this one is probably over, but Rivers does not want his players treating this game like it is over over.
Know what I mean?
After the Raptors opened the second half on a 9-2 run to extend their lead to 16 points — their largest of the game — Rivers took a swift timeout. This might be the last game of an 81-game season, but he does not want the Celtics going through the motions.
Halftime, Raptors 59-49: DeRozan seems like a nice kid, and at 6-foot-7 with decent athleticism, he should be a fine player. But at halftime he has just nine points on 2-for-6 shooting, one rebound and one assist against an opponent that has made it clear it is not approaching this game with all its ammo.
Gay and Valanciunas have had no such trouble. Gay has 15 points in more than 17 minutes and Valanciunas has 13 points and six rebounds in just over 18 minutes. Only Bradley has played anywhere near that much for the Celtics.
The Celtics got 11 points each from Bradley and Pierce, but do not expect to see them much in the second half. After an off day on Thursday, the Celtics are slated to practice Friday in New York to gear up for Game 1 of their playoff series against the Knicks. Rivers does not seem in any hurry to push his guys in Toronto.
Second quarter, 5:24, Raptors 46-39: Valanciunas had a nice preseason, an inconsistent first half of the season as he transitioned into NBA life, and since the All-Star break he has shown flashes of being great.
Valanciunas is giving Boston his full repertoire here, scoring nine points and blocking three shots early in the action. His play is nearly impressive as Williams doing his Terrence Stansbury impression with a Statue of Liberty finger-roll over Lowry on the break.
Second quarter, 9:20, Raptors 36-35: Courtney Lee, a starter for much of the season, took a while to make an impact in this one. He finally got in the scorebook with a 3-pointer to briefly help the Celtics take the lead, but the Raptors turned around and threw the ball the length of the court on the inbound to retake the lead.
D.J. White and Terrence Williams have joined Crawford, Randolph and Lee on the court. It may not be explicit, but this is probably Rivers’ signal that he is letting his main guys take it easy.
End of first quarter, Raptors 31-30: Just as Rivers drew it up (or at least we will give him the benefit of the doubt), Jordan Crawford tossed up a halfcourt shot at the end of the quarter, and…
Crawford’s skillfull and not at all lucky shot helped the Celtics pull back within one after a fairly impressive first quarter by Toronto — or Gay, anyway. Gay put up 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting and 3-for-4 shooting from downtown as the Raptors surprisingly held the lead. We will see how aggressively Rivers deploys Pierce, Bass and Green from here on, as he has already given Shavlik Randolph ample playing time.
First quarter, 5:52, Raptors 17-15: As expected, Toronto offered a moment of silence and played “Sweet Caroline” before the game. The moment of silence was sweet, but honestly I wonder how many Raptors fans — or Celtics players, many of whom have probably never been to a Red Sox game — grasped the significance of that song.
Maybe it is rust from not playing in three days, but Bass has had a rough start. He failed to box out Valanciunas twice, then got caught committing a defensive three-second violation. Rivers loves to say Bass is a “rhythm” player, so it would make sense that Bass might struggle with the layoff more than some other Celtics.
Bass did recover with a man’s rebound on defense, and tip-dunked home a missed layup by Shavlik Randolph.
7:30 p.m.: With Tuesday’s unscheduled off day, the Celtics figured to play everybody in Toronto. Not so. Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry will sit out the game, Doc Rivers told reporters, and Paul Pierce, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass will play limited minutes.
The Celtics have two days off before they almost assuredly play Saturday in New York. The Rangers have a late afternoon home game at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, meaning the venue is booked for that day. That means the Celtics will have played one game in a stretch of six days.
The project starting lineups appear below.
5:55 p.m.: Tragedies have a way of bringing people together, and that appears to be the case in Toronto.
Two weeks ago, Torontonians were cursing everything Boston-related when former Blue Jays manager John Farrell made a trip to the Rogers Centre with his new team, the Red Sox. Now they will stand united with Bostonians prior to Wednesday’s game against the Celtics.
The Raptors will observe a moment of silence and play “Sweet Caroline” when they introduce the Celtics’ starting lineup, according to radio play-by-play announcer Sean Grande.[tweet https://twitter.com/SeanGrandePBP/status/324639599920033792 align=’center’]
Be forewarned, it might get a bit dusty when the song starts to play.
8 a.m. ET: It is hard to say precisely how emotional it will be Wednesday when the Celtics take the court at the Air Canada Centre for their first game since Monday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon. The Celtics canceled Tuesday’s game at TD Garden against the Pacers out of respect for the victims and security personnel whose efforts were better utilized at the crime scene, in a move that was impossible to argue against.
Just how Celtics coach Doc Rivers approaches this final game against the Raptors (32-48) could be interesting. He planned on parceling out rest to some key players in this final week, but now that the Celtics (41-39) will have had just one game in a seven-day span, the plan may have changed.
If you would like to take a break from the nonstop news coverage, please join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.