|Raptors view Celtics as threat in Atlantic Division||11.06.14 at 9:40 am ET|
The Raptors flipped a 34-48 record and a last-place finish in the Atlantic Division in 2012-13 to a 48-34 ledger and a division crown in the third year of the Dwane Casey coaching era last year. With headstrong 28-year-old point guard Kyle Lowry and burgeoning young shooting guard DeMar DeRozan in the fold, they cemented themselves as the Atlantic favorites for years to come.
The Celtics are hoping to replicate Toronto’s turnaround behind their own headstrong 28-year-old point guard Rajon Rondo and burgeoning young shooting guard Avery Bradley in the second year of coach Brad Stevens‘ tenure.
The Raptors are recognizing their effort.
“They’re definitely very talented,” DeRozan said after scoring 23 points on 25 shots in a 110-107 win in Boston. “They’ve got a great coach. They’ve got a hell of a point guard in Rondo. They’re still learning and still growing. You’ve got a talented kid in [Marcus] Smart, so they definitely have a chance and we definitely have to look for them, especially in our division.”
Including the preseason, the Celtics and Raptors have faced each other three times, twice battling to the final possession. The C’s outplayed Toronto in almost every facet of Wednesday’s game — shooting 51.3 percent from the field, grabbing 31 more rebounds and leading by as many as 16 points — but committed 28 turnovers, most of which were unforced.
When asked if he viewed the Celtics as a threat in the Atlantic Division, Lowry didn’t hesitate.
“Yeah,” he said, even after dropping 35 points on 17 shots on their backcourt. “The way they play, they play so hard, man. You just have to tip your hat to how they play. They’re well coached, and they have some talented young pieces. They’ve got an NBA champion over there, so they’ve got some pieces and players who know how to get the job done.”
|Video: Jeff Green chases down, blocks Lou Williams||11.05.14 at 8:08 pm ET|
The Celtics got out to an early double-digit lead against the visiting Raptors where an engaged Jeff Green was a big factor. This remarkable chase-down block of Lou Williams highlighted was one of three blocks for Green to go along with seven points and two assists in the opening frame. The Celtics led 35-23 after one.
|Why you should care about Wednesday’s Celtics loss: Tyler Zeller emerged, and Evan Turner was ejected||10.15.14 at 10:00 pm ET|
On a night when Celtics coach Brad Stevens declared Kelly Olynyk “tough to unseat” for the starting center spot, Tyler Zeller broke out of his slump, converting all six of his shots and emerging as a potential solution to the C’s rim-protecting woes in a 92-89 preseason loss to the Raptors in Portland, Maine.
Zeller entered averaging 5.8 points and 3.2 rebounds with just one block in 75 total minutes. In 12 first-half minutes against Toronto, he broke out for 11 points, three boards and a trio of blocks, anchoring a 13-3 run to tie the game at the half. He finished with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and the three blocks in 18 minutes.
The 7-footer played well off the pick-and-roll with Evan Turner, who assisted Zeller’s first four buckets, all inside of 4 feet. And the C’s enjoyed their best string of basketball with both Zeller and Olynyk (6 points, 7 rebounds) in the frontcourt.
OTHER REASONS TO CARE AOBUT CELTICS-RAPTORS:
Avery Bradley pulled a Paul Pierce. With eight seconds remaining, Bradley (13 points) made a step-back elbow jumper to tie the game at 89-89. But Lou Williams answered with a 3-pointer over Bradley with 0.6 seconds left, and Jared Sullinger’s buzzer-beating heave bounced off the back of the rim.
|Raptors CEO to Celtics: ‘How’s that preseason going?’||10.22.13 at 5:38 pm ET|
Let’s just say the Raptors didn’t enjoy having a Celtics fan wearing an outdated Ray Allen jersey and naturally double-fisting a couple Molson Goldens at their annual town hall event for season ticket-holders.
“Where’s that guy with the Celtics jersey?” said Raptors CEO Tim Leiweke. “How’s that preseason going for you?”
Toronto, of course, handed the Celtics two of their seven losses so far this preseason. Ouch. You know it’s bad when the Raptors started calling the C’s out. [Insert “The Raptors have season-ticket holders?” joke here.]
|Rudy Gay: Rajon Rondo ‘will be stronger than ever’||10.08.13 at 1:34 am ET|
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo might not share his thoughts on the last eight months with the Boston media, but he’s certainly opened to his friends, including Raptors star Rudy Gay, the recipient of Rondo’s greatest alley-oop pass. Not that Gay, who included Rondo in his wedding over the summer, is going to share that info, either.
“If he’s not telling, then I’m not telling,” said Gay, who just finished scoring 17 points on 11 shots in an efficient 23:12 during a 97-89 victory against the Rondo-less Celtics in Boston. “He’s working his hardest to get back. He’s not the type of guy to take a day off. He’s worried about the team, and he’s worried about himself.”
While it may be strange for Celtics fans to see their team without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, it’s not all that weird for guys like Gay, who entered the league when Pierce’s Celtics won 24 games in 2006-07. Since then, he’s seen LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, James Harden, David Lee, Zach Randolph, Tyson Chandler and Jrue Holiday — each All-Stars last season — swap uniforms.
As Gay described it, “Listen, man, the league changes every year.” And he should know. The Grizzlies sent him to Toronto just last year. Really, the departure of Pierce and Garnett is nothing new in today’s NBA, so don’t you think Rondo eventually realized that, too? In fact, Gay believes Rondo will ultimately flourish without them.
|Fast Break: Raptors spoil Brad Stevens’ Celtics debut||10.07.13 at 9:58 pm ET|
The new-look Celtics may have lost their preseason debut, but the defeat wasn’t entirely discouraging.
In front of the handful of fans not watching the Red Sox, four Celtics reached double figures in the 97-89 loss to the Raptors. Gerald Wallace (16 points) led the way, followed by Jared Sullinger (14 points, 6 rebounds), Avery Bradley (12 points) and Kris Humphries (11 points). Of course, other things happened, too.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Tough start: Let’s just say the introduction to the Brad Stevens Era defense wasn’t pretty. The Raptors grabbed an 8-0 lead, including a pair of uncontested Jonas Valanciunas dunks, and then stretched it to 14-2 against a starting lineup of Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries.
No contest: The Celtics played everyone on the 14-man roster in the first half with the exception of Phil Pressey, and things didn’t get much better defensively. The Raptors shot 59.4 percent from the field and scored 53 points in the opening 24 minutes, including 26 in the paint and 10 on second chances. Somehow, only two of those 53 points came on the fast break, which means the half-court defense wasn’t so good.
Window watching: At halftime, the Celtics had six rebounds. Six. That’s one every four minutes. Their leading rebounder? Six guys with one apiece (four bigs, Gerald Wallace and Avery Bradley). Meanwhile, the Raptors had 22 boards at the break. Valanciunas had a half dozen, or as many as the entire Celtics roster combined. Things improved in the second half, but Toronto still out-rebounded the C’s 46-26 for the game.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Frontcourt depth: The first three non-guards off the bench — Wallace, Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger — transformed the early 14-2 deficit into a three-point lead late in the first quarter. Olynyk’s passing game was the biggest surprise, as the rookie registered more assists (5) than the rest of his teammates (4) through the first two quarters.
Vitor FAVErani: The mystery behind the Brazilian big man landing in Boston and the unveiling of his mohawk during a glorious Media Day interview established Faverani as the Honorary Brian Scalabrine Award winner of this preseason (also known as the Greg Stiemsma Lifetime Achievement Award), and he didn’t disappoint in his Garden debut. In the 7-footer’s first three minutes, he threw down a breakaway dunk, poached a pair of steals, blocked a shot and set a handful of hard screens. Vitor is still the best.
Over the Hump: For all the off-the-court drama that has plagued Kris Humphries, he quietly showed up early in Boston (in great shape, too), served as a leader to the younger Celtics during pre-camp workouts, earned a starting spot out of camp and then drew a pair of charges early in the first preseason game. In other words, he’s motivated and could win over some Celtics fans this season. In related news, Humphries is in a contract year.
|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce help Celtics spread wealth||03.13.13 at 9:58 pm ET|
Seven Celtics scored in double figures and every member of the team but Shavlik Randolph made a bucket as they handed the Raptors a 112-88 blowout win to bounce back from a loss to the Bobcats the night before.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
New Logo: In what’s becoming a nightly occurrence, Garnett passed another milestone, the Celtics crowd gave him a standing ovation and he reciprocated with a salute. This time, Garnett (12 points) passed Jerry West for 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with a layup two minutes into the second quarter. Midway through the third quarter, Pierce (15 points) surpassed Charles Barkley to claim 20th on the same list and also saluted the cheering crowd.
Green lantern: After shooting a combined 16-for-47 (34 FG%) in his last four games, Green came out firing. He made 5-of-7 attempts, including his lone 3-pointer, to enter the break as the lone player in double digits (12). His three rebounds paired with Garnett’s seven first-half boards gave the C’s an early edge on the glass. Green finished with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
Air Jordan: Jordan Crawford submitted his best two performances in a Celtics uniform in back-to-back games. After scoring 14 points in the stinker against the Bobcats, he totaled 12 against the Raptors, and each basket was more improbable than the next. The off-balance 3-pointer to beat the shot clock and a half dunk over a chagrined Raptor in transition were just two of his highlights. At some point, as the kid keeps hitting ridiculous shots, it’s more skill than luck, right?
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: It’s hard to tell whether the first quarter was even basketball or not. The Celtics and Raptors combined for 11 turnovers (BOS 6, TOR 5), Jason Terry (12 points) earned himself a silly technical foul for batting the ball off an announcer and the C’s allowed 14 points in the paint. The result? A 22-21 Toronto lead after one.
Turd-quarter runs: The Celtics built a 53-40 lead a minute into the second half, but they proceeded to watch as the Raptors ran off a 9-0 run that included three layups and a Rudy Gay (19 points) dunk. For the sake of Garnett and Pierce’s legs, thankfully the C’s closed out the third quarter on a 28-13 run, taking an 81-62 edge into the final frame.
Finish rim: Avery Bradley came into the game shooting a season-worst 56 percent at the rim. Considering the number of times he gets himself open under the basket, that’s disturbing, but most of his misses seem to come in transition, when he’s 1-on-1 with a defender as he was at the end of the first quarter. Since Bradley’s defensive prowess will so often put him in transition, he needs to work on finishing at the rim.
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