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."
Final, Celtics, 107-89:
Boston used an 11-6 run to close out the victory against the Raptors. Boston outscored Toronto 60-47 in the second half, and Jason Terry led all scorers with 20 points. Rajon Rondo and his 20 assists led the Celtics offense, while Pierce and Garnett added 19 and 15 points, respectively. Sullinger recorded his first NBA double-double, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds, both career highs. Andrea Bargnani and John Lucas led Toronto with 15 points each.
Fourth quarter, 2:52, Celtics, 103-83:
Celtics offense now running full stride in the final quarter. Three starters have reached double-digit scoring: Terry (game-high 20 points), Pierce (19) and Garnett (15). Sullinger with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Fourth quarter, 8:31, Celtics, 85-69:
Sullinger now has his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, both career bests. Rondo is doing a fine job creating open looks, and has 20 assists, which ties his season high.
End of the third quarter, Celtics, 79-64:
After a timeout at the two-minute mark, the Celtics went on an 8-2 run to close the quarter. Terry (18 points) shocked Boston's offense back to life with three 3-pointers in the quarter. Rondo is pacing the offense with 19 assists, Pierce still leads all scorers with 19 points, and Garnett has 15.
Third quarter, 1:55, Celtics, 71-62:
After two free throws from Andrea Bargnani cut the Celtics lead to 63-61, Boston went on an 8-1 run for a more comfortable 9-point lead. The run was sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from Jason Terry (15 points), and a layup from Sullinger.
Third quarter, 4:20, Celtics, 61-57:
Boston is called for the 3-second violation, and now the Raptors trying to cut the deficit to two points. Boston with 12 turnovers, Toronto with 8.
Third quarter, 8:49, Celtics, 51-47: After the Celtics jumped to a 51-42 lead, Toronto answered with a 3-pointer from Jose Calderon and a jumper from DeMar DeRozan to inch back within four.
End of the first half, Celtics, 47-42: After opening the second quarter with a 13-point lead, the Celtics left the door open for the Raptors, who pulled within four points. But a 3-pointer from Pierce stretched the Celtics lead to 47-40, and then DeMar DeRozan answered with a layup to pull his team within five at the break. Pierce leads all scorers with 13 points, while Toronto's John Lucas has 11. Jared Sullinger has looked strong under the glass, leading the Celtics with 6 rebounds. Rondo has a game-high 11 assists, and Jason Terry chipped in 9 points.
Second quarter, 1:32, Celtics 47-40: Rajon Rondo now with 11 assists. The point guard has reached double-digits assists in 33-straight games.
Second quarter, 3:26, Celtics, 40-36:
The Raptors are starting to heat up towards the end of half with an 8-2 run, forcing the Celtics to call another timeout. A pair of 3-pointers from Jose Calderon and John Lucas, and a basket from Ed Davis have cut the Celtics lead to four.
Second quarter, 5:55, Celtics, 38-28: Celtics take a timeout midway through the second quarter. On the heels of a 3-pointer from Jason Terry, Boston maintains its double-digit lead.
End of the first quarter, Celtics, 30-17: Boston closes the quarter with a 12-6 run, which began with a score from Rondo with 3:50 to play. Paul Pierce with 8 points, Rondo with 4 points and 7 assists.
First quarter, 4:22, Celtics, 18-11: Doc Rivers uses his first timeout of the game. Pierce with 8 points. Rajon Rondo already has 6 assists, and looks to be moving around just fine.
First quarter, 8:40, Celtics, 12-5: Kevin Garnett with the bucket for the Celtics. Paul Pierce leads all scorers with 6 points.
We're about five minutes from tipoff at the TD Garden.
Projected starting lineups: