Another day, another less-than-inspiring performance. This time, a strong second half was enough to propel the Celtics past the Chris Bosh-less Raptors, 115-104. Wait, you ask, the Celtics had a strong second half? I know, I couldn’t believe it either.
But it happened, and it was just in the nick of time. For awhile, it looked like the Knicks game on repeat: Score, get scored on. Score, get scored on. Score again, get scored on again. And so on, and so forth.
As you can probably tell, the poor defense, especially in the first half, was the negative. But, for one night at least, I don’t want to dwell on that. Instead, I’ll go ahead with the positives. As few stops as the Celtics have gotten lately, they have been scoring at a ridiculous pace. Tonight, the C’s shot 57.8% from the floor, pretty much having their way with a Raptors squad not designed to stop anybody. Leading the way was Rajon Rondo (21 points, 7 assists, 8-11 shooting), who got into the lane at will, and finished once he got there. It’s hard to overstate Rondo’s importance to the Celtics: When he gets going and he’s aggressive, as he was in the second half, the Celtics are an entirely different team. Sometimes, Rondo waits in the wings, content to bring the ball up the floor and boringly run the offense, but tonight was not one of those nights. He attacked the paint at will, taking advantage of a Toronto defense that wouldn’t even be able to stop a team of five dogs.
For a half, it looked like the Celtics were the team of five dogs the Raptors couldn’t stop. The game was a shootout, and the Raptors entered halftime with a 54-52 lead. But the second half was a different story, and while the C’s never exactly left a stamp of dominance, this one was in hand for the majority of the final 24 minutes. Playing huge minutes for the C’s was the oldest dog of all, Michael Finley. Fin shot 4-5 from three, nailing three timely trifectas in the fourth quarter as the Celtics pulled away. He was on such a scorch-fest that Doc Rivers left Paul Pierce on the bench for the final period, allowing Finley to help bring the C’s home.
While Finley’s hot shooting was a surprise, Ray Allen’s fourth-quarter scoring wasn’t so unexpected. He scored ten points in the fourth, including one bucket on a fast break that had me off my seat: An around-the-back, with no dribble, leading to a finger roll. Shades of Jesus Shuttlesworth.
With Ray and Finley providing the fourth-quarter punch, the Celtics had enough to beat a Bosh-less Raptors. But there will be tougher tasks in the days to come, and the defense certainly needs some improvement by the time the playoffs roll around.
- Marquis Daniels played the final 24 seconds of the first half, and another two seconds at the end of the third quarter. That’s it. If I’m Marquis, I’m pissed. If you’re going to play me, play me. If you aren’t, don’t. Don’t make not playing me even worse by embarrassing me with 26 seconds of useless burn. Just ask Nate Robinson: It’s better to get a DNP-CD.
- Kevin Garnett had one more rebound than my left big toe. In case you were wondering, that means KG had one rebound.
- Sonny Weems had 17 first-half points. He and DeMar DeRozan make up a very, very athletic tandem.
- Toronto’s bench had 58 points, compared to Boston’s 30.
- Pierce had 17 first-half points, and ended with 20. He only played 30 minutes, due to Finley’s scorch-fest.