Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo Ready for Real Games As C's Close Preseason With 81-73 Win Over Raptors

End of game, Celtics win 81-73: That will do it. The Celtics close their preseason slate undefeated with a convincing victory over Raptors.

The standout was Rondo, who had 17 points, six assists and two steals in 22:30. He committed four turnovers, but most of them came as a result of his new teammates not expecting passes and of trying to do some fancy things in a game that doesn't count.

Allen and Garnett cruised to eight points each, with Allen playing 21:03 and Garnett playing just 17:37. Two preseason games appears to have been plenty of time for the veterans to warm up for the real thing.

Rivers has some decision-making to do. It's probable Sweetney will not make the final roster (sorry, folks), but Stiemsma seems to have a good chance. Moore and Bradley each showed reasons to give them a chance, Moore with his shooting (11 points) and Bradley with his defense (three steals).

Fourth quarter, 3:17, Celtics 78-65: Michael Sweetney, who is listed at 295 pounds, seals off his defender and drops in a wide-open layup. For some reason that sends the Garden crowd into a frenzy.

Toronto calls a timeout to talk it over.

Fourth quarter, 4:47, Celtics 76-64: There is less than five minutes left in this preseason game that is out of reach for the Raptors, yet Bargnani and DeRozan are both still in the game. DeRozan will most likely log 40 minutes in this game.

The Celtics have a unit that includes grizzled veterans Moore, Bradley, Johnson, Gilbert Brown and Mike Sweetney.

Fourth quarter, 6:23, Celtics 74-64: Moore and Bradley are both determined to play into the wing rotation, and right now Moore is winning the battle.

Moore has 11 points, helped largely by 6-of-8 from the foul line. Bradley is just 1-for-7 with five points, although he does have three steals.

Fourth quarter, 7:35, Celtics 74-60: JaJuan Johnson gets the ball in the post and makes a quick spin into the lane for a tough layup, but it's called off due to traveling.

Johnson is known for his face-up game, but he could contribute greatly the team by developing more moves with his back to the basket — without traveling, obviously.

Fourth quarter, 10:57, Celtics 70-53: Stiemsma takes a charge. There's nothing this guy doesn't do.

End of third quarter, Celtics 67-53: There's good news and bad news with Moore, who is going to have show he can either score well enough to earn a spot in the rotation as a two-guard or that he can handle the ball and direct the offense well enough to play third-string point.

Moore knocked down a 3 on a swing from Daniels, but a few possessions later misses a short pull-up jumper.

Bass continues to look outstanding on offense with the ball in his hands. He used a great first step to drive the lane and throw down a dunk with two hands. His offensive arsenal is clearly larger than Glen Davis', although it will take a while for him to understand Boston's defense the way Davis did.

It was an odd set on the floor with Pavlovic, Dooling, Bass, Moore and Bradley, but it was effective in building back up the Celtics' lead at the end of the third.

Third quarter, 2:55, Celtics 54-49: Amir Johnson slips behind the defense, where Calderon finds him for a wide-open, two-handed jam.

The Celtics will take a timeout. Preseason is preseason, but the Celtics have to work on protecting these double-digit leads once the games count.

Third quarter, 4:30, Celtics 53-44: Moore takes a step while trying to make an inbounds pass, but that's illegal. Rules.

Third quarter, 5:11, Celtics 52-44: Bayless finally takes a shot that isn't blocked, dunking on the break to cut the Celtics' lead to single digits.

Boston gave up a huge lead in Toronto on Sunday, and the Celtics would like to avoid needing Stiemsma to bail them out again.

Daniels checks in for the Celts. He's now on the floor with Bass, Dooling, Wilcox and Moore. The Raptors counter with Bayless, Amir Johnson, Calderon, Forbes and Davis.

Third quarter, 6:10, Celtics 52-42: Freshly entered into the game, E'Twaun Moore starts dribbling and then just kind of doesn't stop. The possession ends with Moore airballing a double-contested leaner as the shot clock expires.

For all the energy the reserves have shown, they haven't done very well putting the ball in the hoop, with the notable exception of Stiemsma.

Third quarter, 6:57, Celtics 52-40: Bayless gets blocked again, this time by Pavlovic. If you're keeping score at home, that's 1-of-10 for Bayless, plus three personal fouls.

Allen hits a 3 to put the lead back up to a dozen.

Third quarter, 9:12, Celtics 50-35: O'Neal gets his third blocked shot of the game, but it's on Bayless, so it only counts for half.

Third quarter, 10:01, Celtics 49-33: It's a slow start to the half thus far. Two Bargnani free throws and a driving layup by Rondo off a screen from Garnett account for the only scoring.

Still, the Celtics starters are clearly coasting, just trying to get their timing together down rather than just score at will — which they basically can do against the Raptors.

Halftime, Celtics 47-31: The first half, a.k.a. The Greg Stiemsma Show, comes to an end. Here's the good, the bad and the so-so.

The Good: Rondo, who has 15 points in 16:40, has hit two long jump shots and is 5-for-6 on free throws. He already has six assists and might have more if his teammates could handle his passes. … Garnett, who has played 12:04 and has hit three of his four shot attempts for seven points. … Stiemsma, who has played 11:39 and seven points on 3-of-5 shooting. …

The Bad: The Raptors, who are shooting 12-for-43 (28 percent) from the field. … Bass, who is utterly lost on defense, his eight points on 3-of-3 shooting aside. … Bradley, who has missed all five shots he's taken in 7:26. … Toronto's Ed Davis, who isn't playing so bad in 9:29, but his two free throw attempts were so hideous, his overall production almost doesn't matter. … Bayless, who should really need no introduction, has missed seven of the eight shots he's taken.

The So-So: DeRozan has 10 points and five assists and has hit four of his six free throw attempts, but he is 3-for-9 from the field with one turnover in his 21:47. To repeat, that is arguably Toronto's best player, and he's played 21 minutes, 47 seconds of a possible 24 minutes in a preseason game.

Second quarter, :57, Celtics 43-30: Bass shows great anticipation by intercepting a cross-court pass by Calderon, and smartly gives up the ball to Rondo.

For the third time in two preseason games, though, Bass can't handle a quick pass from Rondo. Whoever is buying Bass' Christmas presents, here's a suggestion: JUGS machine.

Second quarter, 3:14, Celtics 41-24: Stiemsma may be the Celtics' best backup big man in this game.

Don't laugh.

After an Allen rebound and outlet to Rondo, the point guard hits a streaking Stiemsma for a dunk to give the Celtics a 39-24 lead.

On the next possession, Stiemsmas knocks down a long jumper to stretch the lead to 16 points. The Raptors call a timeout to figure out who's got that Stiemsma guy, who now has seven points.

Second quarter, 4:02, Celtics 36-24: Bargnani makes Bass look pretty bad by completely losing him on an off-ball screen. The result is an embarrassing moment for Stiemsma, who is the victim of a one-handed reverse dunk by Bargnani. Bass has really struggled defensively in both preseason games thus far.

Oh, and Bayless misses another shot.

Second quarter, 6:05, Celtics 33-18: The Celtics remind fans how crisp they can look when they're right.

First, Rondo hands off at the top of the key to Garnett, who drills a 20-footer. Then Allen comes off a screen for a 12-foot jumper, followed by Rondo using a Garnett screen to get to the hoop for a wide-open layup.

And to all the Jerryd Bayless fans out there: I'm sorry, but he's just not very good.

Second quarter, 9:14, Celtics 27-16: Bradley looks like a guy who wants that backup shooting guard spot.

Although he's missed a few open jump shots, he just picked Johnson's pocket and appeared to have a wide-open lane to the basket from halfcourt.

Johnson fouled him, and it's not clear why Bradley's not getting two shots for an open-court foul.

Second quarter, 10:45, Celtics 27-16: Stiemsma hits a jumper to momentarily give the Celtics their largest lead at 27-13, but Calderon hits a 3-pointer to cut the lead back down to 11.

Second quarter, 11:22, Celtics 25-13: Fans get their first Greg Stiemsma sighting, and Stiemsma inspires Garnett to make a tough and-1 layup. Garnett converts the free throw and the Celtics are up a dozen.

End first, Celtics 22-13: The first quarter comes to a clsoe with the Raptors proving for another 12 minutes that they're not going to be wearing any special hats and T-shirts while confetti rains down on them at the end of this season.

Sorry, Raps.

(Oops, I promised I wouldn't call them that.)

Garnett replaced Bass and things immediately looked more encouraging. Dooling, who clearly knows his way around a pick-and-roll, executes one with Garnett. Instead of hitting Garnett popping out for a jumper, though, Dooling zips a pass to Wilcox down low for a layup.

The C's outrebounded Toronto, 10-8, in that quarter, which is a positive sign because that was one of the few areas in which the Raptors beat them on Sunday.

First quarter, 1:28, Celtics 20-11: Rivers puts a lot of Bass and Wilcox by sending out a lineup that includes Daniels, Avery Bradley and Keyon Dooling.

Daniels can play three or two, but with Wilcox the tallest player on the floor, the C's are definitely a bit small.

So far not much offensively to speak of other than a couple missed jumpers by Bradley.

First quarter, 3:35, Celtics 18-9: All that nice stuff I just said about O'Neal? Yeah, it doesn't apply to Bass and Chris Wilcox yet.

The bigs got completely lost on a screen and roll and allowed Bargnani to burst uncontested for a one-handed slam. That's more motion than Bargnani's made in two seasons.

First quarter, 4:39, Celtics 14-7: When Rivers called O'Neal the team MVP of training camp, it had to be taken with a grain of salt. It sounded like the lip service coaches often give to aging veterans or promising young players to bolster their confidence.

It's now obvious Rivers wasn't lying. O'Neal goes to the bench with two blocks and two rebounds, and he's played outstanding defense that won't show up in the box score.

First quarter, 6:32, Celtics 8-3: Brandon Bass checks in for his first action of the game and quickly makes his presence felt with a pump fake and drive along the baseline for a layup in traffic.

First quarter, 8:17, Celtics 8-0: James Johnson gets stuffed by O'Neal on a layup/dunk attempt, with Rondo coming up with the rebound. On the Celtics' offensive end, Jeryd Bayless sags off and Rondo nails another jump shot.

Those two plays — an athletic defensive play by O'Neal and a second long jumper by Rondo — are very positive signs for the Celtics.

First quarter, 8:52, Celtics 6-0: There's a rarity. Allen can't handle a a bullet of a bounce pass on the break from Rondo. Rondo throws a lot of passes bigs have trouble handling, but Allen is one of the more sure-handed Celtics.

First quarter,10:14, Celtics 4-0: Pavlovic picks off a pass and gets an easy dunk. If this is Pavlovic's chance to show Rivers he can play with the first unit, that's not a bad start.

First quarter, 11:23, Celtics 2-0: O'Neal wins the tip, but DeRozan comes up with the ball. DeRozan's jump shot is short after a nice move to lose Allen.

Rondo opens the scoring with a jumper from the top of the key.

7:40 p.m.: One correction to the earlier starters. Aaron Gray will start at center.

7:37 p.m.: Discouraging news on Pierce, who is "iffy" for Sunday, Rivers said during his pregame media availability.

Since "iffy" is not an official injury designation, it sounds as though Pierce could be classified as "doubtful."

7:30 p.m.: The Celtics are nearly set to tip off — and close out — their home preseason schedule.

Pavlovic is starting at small forward, as expected, but fans will be disappointed to see Greg Stiemsma, the hero of Sunday's heart-pounding victory that doesn't count in the standings, will begin the game on the bench.

Here are the probable starting lineups:

Jermaine O'Neal
Kevin Garnett
Sasha Pavlovic
Ray Allen
Rajon Rondo

Jamaal Magloire
Andrea Bargnani
James Johnson
DeMar DeRozan
Jose Calderon

7:29 p.m.: Perusing the web this afternoon, I discovered that there seems to be a movement afoot to call the Raptors just "the Raps." I promise you I will not be doing this.

7:07 p.m.: Entering the abbreviated training camp, the Celtics had four viable options to take minutes at the small forward position.

It took them until the second preseason game to resort to option No. 4.

Pavlovic is expected to start Wednesday against the Raptors with Pierce expected to be out. Rivers appears to have opted to keep Marquis Daniels with the second unit, which the coach has praised this preseason.

6 p.m.: Once again, the Celtics will take the court without franchise player Paul Pierce.

The veteran forward is out with a bruised heel for the second straight preseason game against the Raptors. This time, the Celtics play host after they beat the Raptors, 76-75, in Toronto on Sunday.

Sasha Pavlovic will slide into the starting lineup in place of Pierce, who coach Doc Rivers hinted may even be questionable for this Sunday's season opener in New York.

Stay with us for updates throughout the game.