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Isaiah Thomas (44 points) leads comeback win over Raptors, with help from supporting cast 02.02.17 at 12:22 am ET
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Feb 1, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) and forward Jae Crowder (99) celebrate after Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) was called for a foul during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Rozier earned some late-fourth quarter minutes in comeback win against Raptors (Winslow Townson/USA Today)

The unsung heroes set the stage. And then Isaiah Thomas, as he seems to do on a nightly basis, danced on it.

Trailing by 18 points in a showdown with the Raptors for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics closed the game on a monster 52-29 run behind 44 points from their All-Star point guard to complete a 109-104 victory.

Thomas put together another incredible fourth quarter, scoring 19 of his 44 points, but the Celtics reserves set the stage for his heroics. Led by Marcus Smart (10 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds), the bench helped chip away at a double-digit deficit and carried their momentum into the fourth quarter. 

Throughout the third quarter, Smart applied pressure on Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and finished strong on the offensive end by making cuts to the basket for easy layups. He was also finding his teammates for easy assists but was most effective in disrupting the flow of Toronto’s offense. 

Terry Rozier, who finished with 5 points and 7 rebounds, nailed a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to pull the Celtics to within eight. He also pulled down two offensive rebounds in the second half to keep possessions alive and slowed down the Raptors’ reserve guards on the defensive end. Tyler Zeller, who finished with five rebounds and four points, made a reverse dunk and tossed an alley-oop to rookie Jaylen Brown to trim the deficit down to five (91-86).

From there, Thomas went on a 7-0 run — giving the Celtics their first lead with 4:39 left. 

However, Lowry, who led the Raptors with 32 points, helped his team regain the lead by draining five straight points for Toronto. With 48 ticks left, Thomas knocked in a 3-pointer to give the C’s a two-point lead before Patrick Patterson missed a 3-pointer and the Raptors were forced to intentionally foul the Celtics in the final seconds.

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Read More: Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Raptors
Reports: Former Celtics forward Jared Sullinger agrees to 1-year deal with Raptors 07.11.16 at 3:30 pm ET
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Once the Celtics signed big man Al Horford, they no longer had room for restricted free agent Jared Sullinger, so they renounced his qualifying offer. He didn’t stay unemployed for long.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo’s The Vertical, Sullinger has agreed to a one-year, $6 million deal with the Raptors, which he trumpeted on his Twitter account by changing his logo to that of the Raptors. Sullinger thanked Celtics fans.

Sullinger averaged 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds a game over four years with the Celtics after being selected 21st overall in the 2012 draft. Head coach Brad Stevens told the Boston Globe after the C’s set Sullinger free that he’d land on his feet.

“Jared’s one of the more talented guys being able to get the ball off the glass, and he’s got beautiful touch and he’s a good guy,” Stevens said. “And so I think he’ll do well.”

Read More: Celtics, Jared Sullinger, NBA Free agency, Raptors
5 things we learned in Celtics’ loss to Raptors 11.05.14 at 10:07 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo couldn't lead the Celtics past the Raptors Wednesday night. (Getty Images)

Rajon Rondo couldn’t lead the Celtics past the Raptors Wednesday night. (Getty Images)

After an unsuccessful two-game trip to Texas, the Celtics returned home to the TD Garden on Wednesday to face off against the Raptors. Toronto came into Boston as the Atlantic Division favorite, sporting a record of 3-1 with its only loss coming on the road in Miami.

The Raptors took a nail-biter from the Celtics, 110-107, as Jeff Green missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The Celtics somehow out-rebounded the Raptors, 55-24, yet still managed to come up short. Contributing the most to the Celtics‘ third loss was 28 turnovers for Brad Stevens‘ team. (For the box score, click here.)

“Well you know we were doing really well as far as that category goes, coming into this game,” Stevens said about the turnover issues. “But I thought most of our turnovers were in the half-court and late in the [shot] clock. I’d have to go back and watch to say that for sure, but they’ve got active hands in the half-court and we didn’t respond as well as we needed to to that. We knew that going in; we talked about it this morning, we talked about it this afternoon, and talked about the need for really precise execution and I thought we did that at times and we didn’t at times. But again, I think the overarching theme was their physicality and their athleticism was a major factor.”

Here is what we learned in the C’s loss:

HOT START

The C’€™s came out blistering hot at home once again, connecting on their first seven field goal attempts and finishing the first quarter shooting 15-for-19 from the floor –€“ good for 78.9 percent.

The Celtics also held a rebounding edge of 14-2 over the Raptors at the end of the first frame, which translated to a 35-23 lead. The only thing seemingly keeping the Raptors in the game was their 12 points off of six Celtics turnovers.

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Read More: Celtics, Jeff Green, Rajon Rondo, Raptors
Report: Lawrence Frank interviews with Pistons 06.16.11 at 2:05 pm ET
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When the season ended the Celtics expected assistant Lawrence Frank to land one of the available head coaching jobs in the offseason. Frank was passed over by the Warriors and Rockets but is still in contention for two jobs. Frank has been identified as one of the finalists in Toronto, along with Dallas assistant Dwane Casey.

Frank may also have a shot with the Pistons. ESPN’s Marc Stein cited sources that had Frank interviewing with Detroit on Wednesday. Former Hawks coach Mike Woodson has also interviewed and Bucks assistant Kevin Sampson is also expected to get an interview as is Casey.

Read More: Dwane Casey, Kevin Sampson, Lawrance Frank, Mike Woodson
Fast Break: Rondo’s return helps rally Celtics past Raptors 01.02.11 at 8:31 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo returned to the Celtics lineup after missing seven games with a severely sprained ankle, and while he wasn’t in top form, he had a definite impact on the Celtics, who snapped out of their recent funk with a 93-79 victory over Toronto on Sunday night. (Recap.)

The Celtics outscored Toronto 50-37 in the second half and shot 54 percent. Their double-digit win was even more impressive when you consider they also allowed 19 offensive rebounds. There’s no rest for the Celtics, who play the Timberwolves in Boston Monday night, but this was a much-needed win after two weeks of struggles.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rajon Rondo returned: The Celtics led 13-8 after six minutes and Rondo was feeling so good he even busted out his fake behind-the-back layup move. Then he picked up his second foul and went to the bench. So long, early lead. Rondo played nine more minutes in the second quarter and went the whole way in the third as the Celtics opened up a nine-point lead.

Rondo wasn’t great — four points, eight assists, five turnovers in 33 minutes — but you could see the difference in how the Celtics got into sets quicker and the passing was much crisper. In the third quarter, the Celtics made 12-of-17 shots and had assists on 10 of them. That’s the kind of impact Rondo has on a game.

Paul Pierce made amends: Pierce had a bad game against the Hornets on Friday afternoon. It happens. Pierce took the extra step of taking the blame for the loss, which wasn’t necessary, but was in line with his role as team leader. You know what speaks more loudly? Taking over the next game. In the first half, when the Celtics were struggling for offense, Pierce scored 20 of their 42 points. That’s leadership.

Center depth: Shaquille O’Neal got in foul trouble again, which is like saying the sun rose in the east. The good thing for Doc Rivers was that he had options. Rivers kept Shaq in the game after he picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter and the big guy was able to convert a layup. He could afford to take the risk because he knew he had Jermaine O’Neal waiting behind him and Semih Erden, if necessary.

The O’Neals combined for 13 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, which is exactly the kind of production they need from the position.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Glen Davis continues to struggle: It’s not that Davis hasn’t been able to do a decent Kevin Garnett impersonation. He hasn’t even been able to be Big Baby the last game and a half. Davis seems to be fighting himself as he adjusts to his new role as a starter, but after starting the game by missing eight of nine shots, Davis came alive in the third quarter.

He finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in what might have been the best bad game anyone on the Celtics has played this season.

Transition defense: This has become the new watchword for Rivers, and the Celtics are struggling a bit in terms of getting back on defense. They gave up 27 fast-break points against Toronto, who is one of the fastest teams in the league in terms of pace. The Celtics play a number of young teams over the next few weeks and you can believe they will want to get out and run, rather than try to go toe-to-toe with the bruising Celtics.

Defensive rebounding: Attention, Celtics big men: Kevin Love is waiting for you on Monday. You might want to tighten up on the boards.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Glen Davis, Kevin Love
Preview: Celtics at Raptors, Game 32 at 10:23 am ET
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After Sunday’s game with Toronto, the Celtics play nine of their next 10 in Boston. It’s a weird quirk in the schedule that sends them to Canada before their homestand, and it’s either a chance to get things back on the track after losing three of four or a potential landmine that will continue their struggles.

The defensively-challenged Raptors may be just what the Celtics need to snap them out of their offensive malaise. Toronto has won just three times in their last 13 games and, like the Celtics, they are dealing with a number of injuries.

Power forward Reggie Evans has been out since November after breaking his foot. Andrea Bargnani has missed five of the last seven games games with a calf strain. Sonny Weems missed their last game against Houston with back spasms and Jerryd Bayless left the Rockets game after eight minutes with an ankle sprain.

The injuries have given rookie Ed Davis a chance to play meaningful minutes and he responded with 17 points and 12 rebounds in a win over the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks, but the Raptors are in rough shape.

The Celtics may get Rajon Rondo back, but that is uncertain at best. Still, they have plenty of healthy talent to deal with Toronto, provided they are in the right mental shape.

[Boston at Toronto, Sunday, Jan. 2, 6 p.m. TV: CSN. Radio coverage on WEEI begins at 5;30 p.m.]

CELTICS (24-7, 7-3 last 10 games)

Offensive Rating: 107.9 (Points per 100 possessions, 11th)

Defensive Rating: 99.3 (Points allowed per 100 possessions, 1st)

Pace: 90.8 (Possessions per game, 23rd)

Likely Starters: Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Glen Davis, Shaquille O’Neal

Injuries: Rajon Rondo (Ankle, questionable), Kevin Garnett (Calf, out), Delonte West (Wrist, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out).

RAPTORS (11-21, 3-7 last 10 games)

Offensive Rating: 106.5 (14th)

Defensive Rating: 110.6 (27th)

Pace: 94.7 (6th)

Likely Starters: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Joey Dorsey, Amir Johnson

Injuries: Andrea Bargnani (Calf, questionable), Jerryd Bayless (Ankle, questionable), Sonny Weems (Back, questionable), Peja Stojakovic (Knee, out), Reggie Evans (Foot, out).

KEY MATCHUP: Ray Allen vs. DeMar DeRozan

In his second season, DeRozan has upped his scoring average from 8.6 to 13.8 points per game, which looks nice but is mostly the result of playing more minutes. Overall, DeRozan hasn’t made a huge jump but he has shown flashes of brilliance such as his 23-point outburst against the Lakers and a 37-point performance against Houston in Toronto’s last game.

If Bargnani can’t play, DeRozan becomes the focal point of Toronto’s attack. Allen has kept him in check in their two previous meetings this season holding him to just 14 points on 4-for-11 shooting.

THREE PLOT POINTS

1. Can the Celtics bounce back?

They have played some ugly basketball over the last few weeks, even before they started losing games. Better ball movement would be a nice start as the Celtics have gone from a fluid, spread-the-wealth team to a one-pass-and-shoot squad. That has been most evident in the 3-point shooting where the Celtics have made 40 percent or better of their attempts just twice since Rondo went out of the lineup.

2. How much will Jermaine O’Neal have after playing 33 minutes Friday?

Doc Rivers never intended to play O’Neal that much in just his fourth game back after missing 19 games with a knee injury, but Rivers stuck with him for 16 straight minutes to close the game. It was O’Neal’s best performance of the season, and while his offense will come around in time, he showed the kind of rebounding and shot-blocking presence that the Celtics have been waiting for.

3. Will Rondo play?

Rondo tried to give it a a go against the Hornets Friday, but after warming up before the game he felt like he wasn’t back to full speed yet. Rondo desperately wants to get back on the court, but after the game, he sounded resigned to the possibility that it may take him a little longer to return to the lineup.

Considering the state of the Raptors, the Celtics may not need him Sunday. Either way, Rondo won’t play until he is ready and that is the correct decision, no matter how many games the Celtics have to struggle through this winter.

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Preview: Raptors at Celtics 11.26.10 at 12:52 pm ET
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In the five days since the Celtics were embarrassed in a Sunday afternoon matinee in Toronto, they regained their swagger in Atlanta, gutted out a win over New Jersey and lost one of their most indispensable reserves in Delonte West.

West’s injury casts a pall over the C’s, and there are no easy solutions for them right now. The immediate plan seems to be to stand pat with what they have, which means more playing time for Von Wafer and an accelerated learning curve for rookie Avery Bradley. This also means an increased role for Marquis Daniels, who was just getting comfortable as the backup small forward. he now has to return to being the team’s most versatile reserve.

These are tough times for the Celtics who didn’t begin to suffer team-wide injury breakdowns until after the new year last season. If they can survive this stretch, and continue to win games, it will serve them well in the second half of the season when Doc Rivers will likely ease off on his veterans. That luxury doesn’t exist right now, and so it will be up to Wafer, Daniels and Bradley to fill in the gaps.

The Raptors have won four straight after a dreadful start and serve as a strong test to the Celtics resolve.

RAPTORS (6-9, 5-5 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 106.2 (15)

Defensive Rating: 107.7 (19)

Pace: 94.6 (8)

Likely Starters: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Reggie Evans, Andrea Bargnani

Injuries: None

CELTICS (11-4, 7-3 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 108.2 (11)

Defensive Rating: 100.5 (3)

Pace: 90.4 (26)

Likely Starters: Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal

Injuries: Rajon Rondo (Hamstring, questionable), Delonte West (Wrist, out), Jermaine O’Neal (Knee, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out) Read the rest of this entry »

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