Game over, Celtics lose 84-79: Celtics lose, falling below Atlanta in the competition for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They maintained their three-game lead in the division over Philadelphia, which lost to New Jersey.
This one is unforgiveable.
Fourth quarter, :13.2, Raptors 80-77: Pierce was way short on the potential game-tying triple. A few seconds remain but this one is in the books.
Fourth quarter, :18.6, Raptors 80-77: The Celtics did not appear to be going for a foul right off the bat, but the official called it anyway. There was probably a foul in there by Pierce anyway, so we can call it even.
DeRozan hit both freebies, making him 13-for-13 from the stripe. Celtics ball.
Fourth quarter, :20.5, Raptors 78-77: Celtics opted to get a quick two on a well-executed play from Rondo to Pierce. Foul upcoming.
Fourth quarter, :26.7, Raptors 78-75: Don't the Raptors know this is where they are supposed to fold? DeRozan took the ball strong to the hoop and drew the foul on Pierce. He knocked down both free throws, giving the Raptors a three-point edge.
Fourth quarter, :38.8, Raptors 76-75: Oh look, Pierce just got here.
Pierce, who had been missing in action for most of the first 47 minutes of this ballgame, converted a three-point play to pull the Celtics within one point. Pierce's play came after Rondo and Bradley forced a turnover at midcourt, ending in a Bradley layup on the break.
The Celtics took a while to arrive, but they eventually got here. Just a few seconds to tell if they leave with a win.
Fourth quarter, 1:28, Raptors 75-68: Mental errors. Pierce went for a totally unecessary steal against a spinning Kleiza, bailing out the Raptors forward with a shooting foul. The play was a microcosm of the game for the Celtics. Whenever the Raptors attempted something that really wasn't in their wheelhouse, the Celtics bailed them out.
Fourth quarter, 2:50, Raptors 72-64: The Celtics pulled as close as they had been since the beginning of the fourth quarter, but they would need to get hot — very hot — late to cut this deficit.
The defense is still doing fine, as evidenced by the Raptors' 35 percent shooting on field goals. The Celtics merely showed no aggressiveness on offense or in rebounding, where they continued to get beat up 48-34.
Fourth quarter, 5:56, Raptors 72-57: Watch out for those D-Leaguers. They have nothing to lose.
Justin Dentmon and Alan Anderson, who spent most of this season in the NBADL, were giving the Celtics all sorts of fits in the fourth. The two combined for 10 points in the first 6:04 of the fourth quarter, including an and-one 3-pointer by Anderson from the corner.
Dentmon, who spent time this year with the Spurs on a 10-day contract before joining the Raptors last week, was not intimidated by Rondo or Bradley. Like I said, Dentmon has nothing to lose.
Fourth quarter, 8:35, Raptors 64-51: No matter the outcome of this game, it counts as a loss for the Celtics on the most important thing that matters: rest.
Rivers was certainly hoping for an easy victory so he could rest the first unit for the next two games in the next two days. It may be decision time in the final eight-plus minutes. The Celtics are never ones to concede defeat, but they may have to consider it if they want Pierce and Garnett fresh in New Jersey on Saturday.
End of third quarter, Raptors 57-47: This is the danger when a team faces an opponent that is clearly inferior. Take that opponent lightly for too long, and it will come back to bite you.
The Raptors stayed alive despite shooting only 23 percent in the first half, and they made the Celtics pay for letting them hang around. DeRozan torched Boston for 13 points in the third quarter as Toronto outscored the C's 27-11 in the frame.
In general, the Celtics hardly looked interested until a 3 by DeRozan put the Raptors up by 11. By then, the Raptors had enough confidence to believe they might catch the Celtics looking ahead to the next two nights of this back-to-back-to-back.
Third quarter, 2:53, Raptors 51-42: The Celtics did not look ready to play from about the second quarter on. Their deficit grew to nine points after the Raptors outscored them 21-6 in the first nine minutes of the third quarter. The C's, who have been so disciplined defensively in their recent stretch, were all over the place (and not in a good way) defending against screens.
The offensive end was where things really got ugly, though. The jumpshot-heavy offense screeched to a halt when the jumpers stopped falling, and the Celtics missed 10 of their first 13 shots, almost entirely on shots more than 10 feet from the hoop.
Third quarter, 5:17, Raptors 47-40: Doc Rivers waited as long as possible, but he could not wait any longer. After the Raptors took the lead on a jumper by DeRozan, Rivers waited to see if his charges would show any fight. They did not, and the coach finally asked for a timeout after the Raptors had outscored the Celtics 17-4 over the first 6:43 of the second half.
Garnett's jumper was not falling, and his 1-for-4 shooting mark exemplified the Celtics' struggles. Boston got nothing close to the basket and continued to get beat on the boards with Toronto taking an 8-3 rebounding advantage.
Halftime, Celtics 36-30: The Celtics fell into a danger zone in the second quarter. After the reserves gave them decent energy to extend the lead to 13 points, the Raptors closed the gap while the Celtics' starters seemed to be going half-speed.
It was hard for the Celtics not to look a little slow with the way the Raptors played. The young Raptors seemed intent on practicing their halfcourt offensive sets, but it had the effect of playing rope-a-dope with the Celtics.
The Good: Brandon Bass was the Celtics' most reliable scoring threat, knocking down four of his seven shots for eight points. … Avery Bradley was in DeMar DeRozan's chest the entire half, and he complemented his defense by going 3-for-4 for seven points. He also had a steal. … Rajon Rondo was his usual self in the first quarter, but he was a non-factor in the second quarter. After posting seven assists in the opening frame, Rondo had no impact in five minutes in the second quarter beyond a steal. The Celtics will need Rondo to stay aggressive if they want an easy win that allows them to rest the big guns on this first game of a three-game, three-night, three-city tour.
The Bad: DeRozan missed all but one of his eight shot attempts, contributing to Toronto's poor 9-for-29 shooting mark at the half.
The So-so: Paul Pierce only hit one of the five shots he took, but he grabbed a team-high six rebounds. … Ben Uzoh had a rather solid first half, considering he was matched up with Rondo much of the time. Uzoh scored six points and handed out two assists with only one turnover, while tying Pierce for the game high in rebounds with six boards.
Second quarter, 2:08, Celtics 34-26: Rondo is an incredible distributor, but he has given up a couple of fairly easy looks at the rim. With him facing the likes of Ben Uzoh, the Celtics might be better off if Rondo just took those.
There is not a whole lot to say about this one, unfortunately. The Celtics' recent run of success on the glass hit a speed bump in Toronto, where the Raptors held a 25-18 rebounding advantage and an 8-2 advantage on the offensive glass.
Second quarter, 5:54, Celtics 30-22: The Celtics had an 11-point lead when Garnett and Bass returned to the game, and that lead surprisingly decreased with those two starters on the court.
The Raptors cut the deficit to eight points on a 3-pointer by Linas Kleiza. Toronto's burst amounted to a 3-0 run.
Yes, it has been that kind of game.
Second quarter, 8:04, Celtics 29-17: The Celtics opened the second quarter with a lineup that looked like the Red Sox on the second bill of a doubleheader in late July. Keyon Dooling, Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins, Mickael Pietrus and Sasha Pavlovic started the frame for the Celtics.
The only thing missing was a call-up from Pawtucket wearing No. 86 on his jersey.
The question was, where would the Celtics find any offense? They found it with a ferocious dunk inside by Hollins and a wide-open 3 by Pietrus to actually extend Boston's lead to 12 points.
End of first quarter, Celtics 20-13: The following statistics are brought to you with no further analysis: Rondo had seven assists in the first quarter, for more field goals than the Raptors made.
First quarter, 1:13, Celtics 19-11: For a team that seems to have as many D-Leaguers as actual NBA players, the Raptors sure do attempt the pump-fake, lean-in and try to draw the foul move. To the Celtics' credit, they did not bite on the fakes and avoided fouls. To the referees' credit, they did not bail out the Raptors by anticipating any fouls.
Rondo and Bradley are like two extensions of the same player. Rondo lobbed an alley-oop to Bradley ahead of the defense, then sliced a bounce pass through the lane to a cutting Bradley for a reverse layup. Rondo assisted on seven of the Celtics' first eight baskets.
First quarter, 4:47, Celtics 13-8: The Raptors are not known for great defensive play (or great play, period) but they do contest shots. Pierce was forced to pass off in mid-air twice after attempting jump shots with a hand in his face.
The Raptors' offense will not set any records, especially with Bargnani and Calderon out, so it was not surprising that they went 3-for-14 from the field in the early going.
Pierce got off to an aggressive start on the boards, nabbing four rebounds in the opening minutes.
6:35 p.m.: As though there should have been any doubt, Brandon Bass was in the lineup for this game.
Bass hyperextended his knee late in Boston's overtime win over the Hawks on Wednesday, leading to a scary moment underneathe the Atlanta hoop. The power forward did not come out of that game, though, and he was back in the starting lineup Friday.
Ray Allen did not travel with the team to Toronto and will miss his second straight game with his troublesome right ankle. Alan Anderson, a 6-foot-6 swingman who was signed by the Raptors on March 26, will start his sixth game as a member of the banged-up Raptors.
The probable starting lineups are below.
8 a.m.: The Celtics have had no difficulty generating intensity in the past two weeks in part because the competition has been so strong. It is tough for the Celtics to lose focus when LeBron James, Joe Johnson and Kevin Love are lined up next to them at tip-off.
Thursday's game brings an entirely different type of opponent. The Raptors (20-39) will never be mistaken for championship contenders, especially with forward Andrea Bargnani missing 28 games. The biggest challenge for the Celtics (34-24) may be avoiding a "trap" game at the start of three-games-in-three-nights trek.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which is set for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
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