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Streak snapped: Celtics end nine-game slide with win over Raptors

01.15.14 at 10:04 pm ET
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With former starting point guard Jordan Crawford in a different uniform, backup guards MarShon Brooks (traded) and Keith Bogans (indefinite absence) out, and the Celtics trying to snap a prolonged losing streak against a solid Raptors (19-18) team, one would be excused for counting out Boston before tip-off.

However, Boston (14-26) avoided the predictable outcome, and finally snapped its nine-game losing streak with a 88-83 win over Toronto at the Garden. The loss marked the 11th straight in Boston for the Raptors.

Jared Sullinger continued a recent run of solid play with a monster game: 25 points, 20 rebounds. Avery Bradley, an emerging star for the Celtics, tallied 20 points. (He’s now led Boston in scoring four of the last five games.). Jeff Green scored 13 points, while Kris Humphries added 12.

DeMar DeRozan sparked Toronto with a team-best 23 points. Kyle Lowry (18 points, 12 assists) and John Salmons (13 points) also chipped in.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS

Sully: Sullinger completely dominated the Raptors’ frontline of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. His 25-point, 20-rebound performance marked Sullinger’s fourth straight game with at least 10 rebounds, and third double-double in four games. Seven of his rebounds were of the offensive variety. Four-and-a-half minutes into third quarter Sullinger already had 15 rebounds. He brought the crowd to a tizzy at the end of the third quarter when he received a full court pass from Gerald Wallace and drained a fadeaway jumper to put Boston up 17 seconds. The Celtics had just over two seconds remaining to convert the play

Pressey starts: With Crawford and Brooks traded, the starting point guard onus fell to Phil Pressey. The undrafted rookie handled the promotion well with 10 assists and three rebounds, although he failed to score. Most importantly Pressey did not commit any turnovers. Pressey’s best stretch came in the final minute of the first half. It began with a pick-and-roll between Sullinger and Pressey that resulted in a Sullinger floater with 58 seconds left. Then, with Boston on the fast break, Pressey nonchalantly flipped a pass behind his back to a trailing Bradley for an easy layup. On the next defensive possession, Pressey plucked a Toronto miss out of the air, and immediately turned and found Bradley streaking to the hoop. Bradley was fouled on the play and made both free throws. Crawford and Brooks’ departure bodes well for Pressey, who will likely remain to see big minutes with a recovering Rajon Rondo the only true point guard currently on the roster.

Avery’s first-half run: Nearly half way through second quarter, Boston had absolutely nothing going on offense. After a DeRozan jumper at the 7:28 mark, the Celtics were trailing by five points, in large part due to a 1-for-7 second quarter shooting effort, and an over all shooting percentage of 28.8. But on the corresponding possession, Bradley cooly splashed a 23-foot jumper. This started a Bradley scoring outburst over the final seven minutes of the half to push Boston into a 45-41 lead. Bradley scored 14 of his 16 first-half points during this stretch, knocking down a number of mid-range jump shots and finishing a couple uncontested layups.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS

Fourth quarter flop: At the end of three quarters, not only was it looking like Boston would win, it appeared that the Celtics would be able to coast to victory.  The Celtics led by 17 points at the end of the third, but Toronto mounted a massive fourth quarter to give Boston a scare. At one point, the Raptors were down by only three points. But the Celtics came up with a couple of vital defensive stops to ice the game.

D on DeRozan: The electric shooting guard seemed to be the only Raptor prepared to play. He scored a team-high 23 points and added eight rebounds and three assists. DeRozan, Toronto’s leading scorer at 21.3 points per game, made tough shot after tough shot, all while being blanketed by Boston’s top defender, Bradley.

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