Jason Terry and the Celtics offense took flight in the second half, stringing together a 16-3 run to close out the third quarter and lead Boston to a 107-89 victory over the Toronto Raptors Saturday at TD Garden.
But it was the defensive effort in the final two quarters that impressed Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.
While Boston struggled to distance itself from the Raptors in the first half, they forced Toronto to shoot a paltry 43.8 percent in the final two quarters, while outscoring them 60-47.
“[Toronto’s] zone didn’t hurt our offense, but it killed our defense,” Rivers said. “Every time we missed a shot, the guy guarding you is not the guy you should be guarding, so we had cross-matchups and were running across the court trying to find our own guy. I thought that really bothered us.
“But then I thought we got a little more organized in the third quarter when we came out and we stuck with it. No matter what you do offensively, it was our defense that won the game.”
There were plenty of sharp performances from the Celtics, like Rajon Rondo’s 20 assists, which tied a season-high, or Jason Terry’s 20 points, which led all scorers. But rookie Jared Sullinger stole a share of the spotlight, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds, both career bests, to record his first career double-double.
In the Celtics last game against the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday, the 6-foot-9 forward played just 7:39.
“I just had to channel my energy to the next game,” Sullinger said. “I wasn’t upset I didn’t play a lot [Wednesday], I was just upset we lost. So that’s my main priority – to win.”