Boston sped off to an early 14-point lead, then took a nap in the second and third quarters, figuring they could catch up and win the game down the stretch. All was going according to plan when Glen Davis canned two free throws with 21.3 seconds left to go ahead 101-98, but then disaster struck.
Sonny Weems responded instantly with a driving layup, then Ray Allen lost the ball after being slapped on the arm. Leandro Barbosa was blocked by Pierce on his drive attempt, but Amir Johnson grabbed the offensive rebound and Pierce slapped him on the arm.
Johnson calmly sunk both free throws to take a 102-101 lead and a last ditch, fadeaway jumper by Pierce clanged off the front of the rim for the Celtics second loss in a row.
Boston got off to a hot start behind Nate Robinson, starting in place of the injured Rajon Rondo. Robinson put on a shooting display, scoring 16 first quarter points and leading the Celtics to a 31-23 lead. Robinson finished the game with 22 points.
The second unit then started the second quarter and the Raptors immediately went on a 13-5 run to even the game. The starters returned with six minutes left in the half, but the momentum and energy had already been lost. Toronto outscored Boston 38-27 in the second quarter.
When Shaquille O’Neal was in the game, Toronto constantly picked on him in pick-and-roll situations. Shaq stayed back in the paint on the screen and Toronto’s guards had a field day. Sonny Weems scored 16 points and Barbosa added 12 off the bench.
Andrea Bargnani led all scorers with 29 points. Kevin Garnett did a good job when he was guarding Bargnani, especially in the first quarter, but Bargnani was too long and too tall for Glen Davis.
Boston trailed by seven heading into the fourth quarter, and by 12 with nine minutes to go, before they went on a 16-1 run, tying the game at 94 on a Ray Allen three with 4:11 remaining, then taking the lead on another Allen three with 3:38 left.
Allen and Pierce both scored 19 points, while Allen also contributed eight rebounds. Though he could not stop Bargnani, Davis was the only productive player off the bench, scoring 12 points and adding another charge to his already league-leading total.
Shaq looked lost offensively without Rondo feeding him easy dunks and layups. Shaq made just two two of his eight shots and fouled out with 7:31 left.