Final: Celtics 122, Raptors 102. This is one long, brutal stretch of January basketball games, so it's always nice to have one easy one mixed in. The Celtics waltz to an uneventful win over the Raptors, 122-102 on their home floor.
The C's are led by a surprising double-double from rookie Luke Harangody, 17 points and 11 rebounds. Five other Celtics score in double figures, including Paul Pierce with 20. Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan drops 20 for the Raptors.
The Celtics must hit the road right away, as they visit the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night in a battle of Eastern Conference titans.
Fourth quarter, 2:52, Celtics 115-91: The Celtics are winning, and Gino's dancing.
Book it. The Celtics are wrapping up their fourth straight win. Bring on the Bulls.
Fourth quarter, 4:22, Celtics 113-89: Luke Harangody gets an offensive rebound and a second-chance bucket. He's now got 17 points and 10 boards for the first double-double of his career.
Where did that come from?
Fourth quarter, 6:52, Celtics 107-86: It's official: Luke Harangody is an absolute beast.
Harangody now has 15 points and nine boards, and the Celtics have buried the Raptors with a 9-0 run. This game was in doubt a minute ago, but now it's just about over.
Fourth quarter, 8:42, Celtics 98-86: Uh oh. The Raptors have closed the lead to just 12.
This one's a little too close for comfort. Time for Doc to send the starters back out there and bear down for a few minutes.
The Celtics have lacked focus ever since halftime, and it's really starting to show.
Fourth quarter, 9:52, Celtics 98-84: Doc Rivers is quietly sneaking his starters back out there for one last run. This lead's not secure just yet.
Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis are back on the floor. Doc probably wishes they didn't have to be.
End of third quarter, Celtics 94-77: Good news for the Celtics at the end of the third, as Semih Erden makes his first appearance in two weeks.
Semih has battled injuries, illness and the rise of Luke Harangody as a backup big man, but he's still occasionally going to get minutes. Good to see him out there.
The C's are 12 minutes away from their fourth straight win.
Third quarter, 2:49, Celtics 84-71: Leandro Barbosa hits another 3. Anyone nervous yet?
The Raptors are outscoring the Celtics 26-17 in this quarter. If the C's can't get a few stops, they might be in serious trouble.
Third quarter, 3:59, Celtics 84-68: Raptors coach Jay Triano has talked about Leandro Barbosa being an important bench scorer. He was probably expecting a little more than this.
Barbosa finally knocks down a 3 after going ohfer the first 32 minutes of the ballgame. He's going to have to hit a few more of those to give the Raps a chance. They still trail by 16.
Third quarter, 5:57, Celtics 80-63: Perhaps the Celtics have gotten a little lazy defensively with the big lead — the Raptors have scored 18 points in the first six minutes of this quarter.
Doc Rivers has called a timeout. Presumably, he's telling his guys to stay alert out there and focus on both ends. It's been a shaky second half so far.
Third quarter, 8:14, Celtics 76-55: Shaquille O'Neal may have 12 points and six boards, but he's 0-for-4 from the line. That's even worse than usual.
Free-throw shooting is about mental focus and rhythm — or, in other words, the things you tend to neglect when you have a 21-point lead in the third quarter. Shaq's woes are understandable under the circumstances.
Third quarter, 10:21, Celtics 72-51: Paul Pierce drains a corner 3 off a rare assist from Shaquille O'Neal. When their ball movement is this sharp, the Celtics just can't lose.
The Raptors are playing an awful game defensively, by the way. Awful even for them.
Halftime, Celtics 67-45: The first three times the Celtics played the Toronto Raptors this season, things stayed close to the bitter end. But in their season finale with the Raps, the C's are going out with a bang.
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and the surprising rookie Luke Harangody each have 11 points, and the Celtics are picking apart the Raptors with crisp ball movement and impeccable shooting. The C's finish the half shooting 27-for-41, or 65.9 percent. That's absurd.
DeMar DeRozan and Linas Kleiza each have 10 points for the Raps. But who cares? They're getting massacred.
Second quarter, 2:01, Celtics 61-41: Glen Davis gets to the line for two free throws, and he drains them both. The Celtics' lead is an even 20.
The Celtics are on cruise control right now. They're shooting 65 percent without even trying.
This game is just too easy.
Second quarter, 3:53, Celtics 55-36: Looks like Doc Rivers will close out the first half with all five starters on the floor. If they can finish strong, they might get to relax a lot in the second half. It's looking like one of those games.
Shaquille O'Neal has played only nine minutes. That's the way he likes it, methinks.
Second quarter, 5:55, Celtics 51-34: Nate Robinson drains a 3 to stretch the Celtics' lead to 17. This is getting ugly.
If the C's can keep their lead fat and happy through halftime, Doc Rivers might be able to rest his starters for much of the second half. Given this difficult stretch of games the Celtics are playing in January, that would be a nice luxury.
Second quarter, 7:45, Celtics 43-30: This is really impressive — Doc has stuck with his complete second unit for more than four minutes now, and they've managed to sustain the Celtics' double-digit lead.
Jermaine O'Neal has been a force on both ends for the C's. When you've got a backup big man who's a six-time All-Star, it's almost unfair.
Second quarter, 9:50, Celtics 41-26: Luke Harangody is doing absolutely everything right. First he knocks down a 3, giving him 11 points for the ballgame. Then he pulls down three more rebounds. Then he sets the perfect pick to free up an open jumper for Nate Robinson.
Who needs Kevin Garnett back? The C's have their power forward right here.
(I'm kidding, folks. Kidding.)
End of first quarter, Celtics 34-22: Can you believe it? You're witnessing a breakout game from Luke Harangody.
The Celtics' No. 52 overall draft pick entered Friday with a career high of four points, but he's now got eight in this contest on perfect 4-of-4 shooting. He's been a major sparkplug off the bench for the Celtics, helping them stretch their lead to double digits toward the end of the first quarter.
The Celtics are on a 16-5 run, and Harangody is the biggest reason why.
First quarter, 2:11, Celtics 28-19: Luke Harangody has made a big impact for the C's off the bench already — he's 2-for-2 from the field for four quick points, and after a quick timeout, he'll have a free throw and a chance at his fifth.
Five points would be a new career high for the Celtics' rookie. Not bad for four minutes' work.
First quarter, 4:43, Celtics 19-17: The Raptors went on a 9-2 run to get back into the game, but Glen Davis responded with a couple of quick buckets to seize control for the C's again.
The Celtics haven't had as much post scoring as Doc Rivers would probably like. The C's have the size and strength to dominate down low in this matchup, but they've hardly tried. Shaquille O'Neal has just two points.
First quarter, 7:15, Celtics 15-8: Shaquille O'Neal just missed two free throws, but the Celtics didn't mind. Glen Davis kicked the rebound out to Ray Allen, and Ray sent it out to Paul Pierce for an open 3. Swish.
The Celtics are shooting the lights out from the perimeter. They've got a nice early lead.
First quarter, 9:18, Celtics 9-4: We saw Rajon Rondo emerge as a shooter in the fourth quarter against the Spurs on Wednesday. It appears the point guard is picking up right where he left off.
Rondo gets going in transition off a lob from Paul Pierce, and he drains a mid-range jumper. It's good to see him take that shot with confidence — a year ago, he might not have.
First quarter, 11:43, Celtics 2-0: The Celtics know how to beat this Raptors team — establish the post early and often. They've already gotten started.
Paul Pierce gets inside for a layup to make it 2-0 Boston.
Can the C's kep pounding the ball down low? That'll be key.
7:10 p.m.: All news is good news for the Celtics, who got a trio of positive updates on the injury front Friday. Here goes:
-Kendrick Perkins is nearing a return from his torn ACL — he is hoping to practice fully starting next week, and he expects to return to game action within three weeks.
-Kevin Garnett will be back and playing soon — according to Doc Rivers, likely either Monday or Wednesday of next week.
-Delonte West will resume basketball activity in a week. Right now his cast is off, but he's forbidden from touching a ball with his right hand. He'll be able to start practicing again later this month, though, and a return around the All-Star break seems reasonable.
6 p.m.: Welcome to the TD Garden, where the Celtics are getting ready for their fourth and final meeting this season with the Toronto Raptors.
The C's lead the season series 2-1, and on Friday night, they'll look to finish it with a win.
Tipoff's 90 minutes away. Stay tuned.
8 a.m.: This might sound strange, but the Toronto Raptors are a deceptively deep basketball team.
The Raptors have been devastated by injuries as much as anyone this season, with six of their primary rotation players being sidetracked by significant injuries. Reggie Evans, Sonny Weems and Peja Stojakovic are all out indefinitely. Andrea Bargnani has missed some time with a calf injury, Jose Calderon has been in and out with ankle and foot troubles, and Jerryd Bayless is battling a sprained ankle as well.
And yet they keep finding bodies. The Raptors aren't necessarily a great team, but they sure are a deep one.
The one guy who's started all 35 contests for the 12-23 Raps is DeMar DeRozan, a ridiculously athletic 21-year-old shooting guard who broke into the league as the No. 9 overall pick in 2009. DeRozan might just be the team's MVP — without Bargnani a week ago, the youngster stepped in and dropped 37 and 27 points against the Rockets and Celtics. He's proven that when he gets the touches, he can be dominant.
Bargnani has some experience terrorizing the Celtics, too — in the Raptors' 102-101 upset win over the C's on Nov. 21, the former No. 1 pick led the way with 29 points. He can be a beast if you don't respect him.
The Celtics have already met with the Raptors three times this season — all three games have been close for most of the way, but the C's have snuck out with a 2-1 lead in the season series. On Friday night, the two teams will converge on the TD Garden floor for their fourth and final meeting.
Stay tuned. The C's and Raps tip off at 7:30 p.m.
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