TORONTO – Injuries keep the revolving door turning for the Celtics.
Two games after Kevin Garnett went down with a strained calf in Detroit, Rajon Rondo walked in to Doc Rivers office at Air Canada Centre and asked to play after sitting out two weeks.
With their catalyst back in the lineup, the Celtics shot 55 percent, both Ray Allen (23 points) and Paul Pierce (game-high 30 points) had huge nights and the Celtics were able to bounce back after losing consecutive games for the first time this season, beating the Raptors 93-79.
Rondo’s five-assist five-showed the rust. But just being on the floor made life easier for everyone else.
Without the burden of being asked to do a little bit of everything for the Celtics, Pierce had no problem falling back into the role of professional scorer.
He dropped 20 points in the first half, using an array of crafty moves to operate on the younger, more athletic Raptors. He got his numbers however he pleased, going 10 of 15 from the floor, 7 of 8 from the line and drilling all three of his 3-pointers.
With 4:15 left in the fourth, Pierce drove hard at the rim and put Amir Johnson on a poster with a one-handed flush.
Moments later Allen drilled a 3-ball from in front of the Raptors bench that put the Celtics up 85-75 and all but sealed the win.
After taking tons of heat for heaving a poorly-chosen three-pointer with 1:13 left in the fourth quarter of the Celtics loss to the Hornets on Friday, Glen Davis responded by nearly posting the first triple-double of his career (15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists).
The Raptors were just as depleted by injuries as the Celtics. Their leading scorer Andrea Barngani was at the top of a list of players watching in street clothes. DeMar Derozan, who’s carried the load with the injuries piled up, dropped 27 points but needed 24 shots to do it.
Fourth Quarter. 8:31, Celtics 76, Raptors 68: This is becoming one of those cases where you can paint by numbers. The Raptors are shooting 39.2 percent, and all of their offense from DeMar Derozan. The Celtics are shooting 52.5 percent. They’re 17-1 when they shoot 50 percent or better and 19-2 when they lead after three quarters.
End of third quarter, Celtics 71, Raptors 62: The Celtics were able to put some space in between, forcing 17 misses out of the Raptors, keeping them off the glass (8 to 6) although not out the fast break (9 points). Things that might get lost in the score sheet: Jermaine O’Neal’s six rebounds. His last one led to a heat-check 3-ball from Paul Pierce. Also Glen Davis went 4 of 5 in the quarter, not one poorly-chosen shot.
Third quarter, 2:17, Celtics 66, Raptors 59: Glen Davis went 4 of 14 against the Hornets and took all the Heat because of a bad choice about a 3-pointer. He’s 4 of 11 tonight and he’s playing sound basketball. He’s got 9 points, seven boards and six assists, the most complete line outside of Paul Pierce’s (23, 7, 3). A couple days ago Ray Allen said Davis could be a triple-double guy if he wanted. It doesn’t sound as far-fetched now as it did then.
Halftime, Caltics 43, Raptors 42: Normally if Rajon Rondo’s been on the floor 16 minutes, he’s working on double-digit assists. So far tonight, he’s got two. He’s got twice as many turnovers, cursing at himself after throwing the ball into a crowd of Raptors trying to find Glen Davis near the end of the half. The one obvious positive for the Celtics with Rondo on the floor has been Paul Pierce being free to score at will. He’s got a game-high 20 points, getting them from the floor (6 of 8) at the line (6 of 6), and from 3-point range (a pair of treys)
Boston: Pierce, 20
Toronto: DeMar Derozan, 13
Boston: Pierce, Glen Davis, 6
Toronto: Joey Dorsey, 8
Boston: Davis, 4
Toronto: Calderon, 5
Second quarter, 1:09, Celtics 42, Raptors 42: Paul Pierce said he needed to be more aggressive, and so far he’s been just that. With Rondo on the floor, he can focus solely on scoring and he’s got 20 points on 6 of 8 shooting (6 of 6 from the line with a pair of 3-pointers).
Second quarter. 6:36, Raptors 31, Celtics 30: You can check your sports stores for the poster that Julian Wright just put Jermaine O’Neal on. But in his 11 minutes, O’Neal’s already grabbed four of the Celtics’ 15 boards.
Second quarter, 9:57, Raptors 29, Celtics 24: With the Celtics starters off the floor, the Raptors scored three straight baskets to start the second quarter. Ed Davis, who’s been playing well lately, had two of them. Rivers put Rondo back on the floor in place of Nate Robinson. He’s out there with Glen Davis, Jermaine O’Neal, Marquis Daniels and Von Wafer.
Second quarter, 10:45, Raptors 25, Celtics 24: Slightly hilarious — Leandro Barbosa picks up his pivot foot trying to stretch out to make a pass, and referee Tom Washington calls him for the travel. Barbosa stands confused for a few seconds, turns around to Washington and asks if it was on him. Washington simply nodded his head, ‘Yes,’ but you’ve got to believe part of him wanted to say, “You’re the only one with the ball!”
End of First Quarter, Celtics 24, Raptors 23: Even though they’re defending well, the Celtics have a slim lead, mostly because they let the Raptors are hitting the glass and got a few second chance points. Still, DeMar Derozan’s doing the bulk of the scoring for Toronto (10 points).
First quarter, Celtics 11, Raptors 8: Rivers took Rajon Rondo off the floor after nearly six minutes after the point guard picked up two quick fouls. The Celtics have knocked down 5 of their firs t8 shots. Paul Pierce is getting to the line relatively easily.
The highlight, though, was the matchups that developed because of all the injuries. The Raptors had to use Joey Dorsey to guard Shaquille O’Neal, and sensing how bad it was, O’Neal literally laughed while talking strategy with Doc Rivers.
Pregame: The Celtics will significantly less short-handed tonight with Rajon Rondo talking himself into the lineup.
The one thing that will change immediately for the Celtics is Nate Robinson’s role. Doc Rivers is almost giddy at the idea of letting Robinson simply be a scorer again, after having to hand floor-general responsibilities the past two weeks.
Obviously, this isn’t the worst time for a test run. The Raptors are model thin. Jose Calderon will play, but Jerryd Bayless, Sonnie Weems, Andrea Barngani, Peja Stojacovic and Reggie Evans will all sit out.