It was a two-possession game with under five minutes to play in the third quarter when a lineup featuring Terry, Green, Crawford, Avery Bradley and Chris Wilcox helped Boston close out the frame on a 17-4 run. Four of the five buckets during the stretch came at the rim, while the other was a kick-out 3-pointer from the corner. A small Boston lineup attacked relentlessly, getting to the line for nine attempts on the run. At the other end of the floor, Toronto missed eight of nine attempts to end the quarter and was staring at a 19-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter. That allowed Pierce to sit out the entire fourth quarter, while Garnett played a mere two minutes. Both kicked back and grooved to Gino dancing on the JumboTron as Boston’s lead ballooned to as high as 26.
The big topic on the day? Whether resting Paul Pierce the night before and getting hammered by the woeful Bobcats was an instance of ‘seed management.’ The tinfoil-hat types are convinced it was part of a plan to keep Boston’s seed low and keep them out of the Heat’s way until deep into the playoffs. No loss in Boston is ever just a loss. It’s always a plan. The worse part of it all? They were right.
Perhaps the only positive thing to come out of this blowout loss was that it gave Terrence Ross the opportunity to get some extra run in. Ross made the best of that opportunity, gaining a little extra confidence with some impressive dunks in the fourth quarter. Ross finished the game 6-11 from the floor with 13 points.
Rudy Gay is terrible, huh?
They switched a lot of things. After shooting just 40.9 percent in the ugly Charlotte loss, the Celtics turned things around and shot 51.3 percent against Toronto. They were outrebounded 48-29 by the Bobcats; against the Raps, they crashed the glass with ferocity and finished up 40-34. On Tuesday night, they were sluggish and unwilling to attack the basket; on Wednesday, they gleefully shared the ball and found good looks with ease. It’s a long season, and there will be good nights intermixed with bad ones all the time. But for the Celtics at this point in the year, these quick recoveries are vital.
It’s not often the word embarrassment gets tossed around, but the Celtics, who were humiliated a night earlier in Charlotte, basically took the Raptors to school once Boston began to control of the game after the first quarter. During his pre-game availability, head coach Dwane Casey spoke of the need to push the pace, yet his Raptors managed the grand total of zero fast-break points in the opening half.
I guess you could call this a learning experience for a young Raptors team still searching for their identity, although that’s probably being too kind. Following a competitive first quarter, this got out of hand in a hurry. The warning signs were there early on as Toronto committed five quick turnovers, miscues that Boston was unable to capitalize on. However, the shrewd and defensive-minded Celtics aren’t likely to let you get away with careless mistakes for very long, nor did they at the Garden on Wednesday.
The bunch in there wasn’t them, he surmised. It couldn’t be. Sure, he’d sat out his first game of the season to rest, but in his absence the Celtics then lost to the NBA’s worst team by 26 points. The Celtics wouldn’t do such a thing. “Was I in somebody else’s locker room?” Pierce said he wondered to himself. The mood on the team’s charter flight home was a cocktail of disappointment and anger, and Pierce said he knew that no matter what team stood in their way Wednesday night, the Celtics were going to destroy them, even if he didn’t play. Pity the Toronto Raptors, who wandered helplessly into the line of fire at TD Garden.
“I can’t get over it. I cannot,” admitted Pietrus. “I’ll be honest with you guys. I just can’t because Boston was what I like to do — fight, protect your jersey and that’s what I like to do. It is what it is. You never know, hopefully I’ll be back. Cross your fingers.” Pietrus spent much of the summer holding out in hopes of landing something above a minimum contract, but the Celtics had little financial flexibility and ultimately maxed out their guard depth by adding Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa.
Mitchell was admittedly hard on several players during his time in Toronto, including Jose Calderon and Chris Bosh. He said management discouraged him from taking the same approach with Bargnani, who the Raptors took first overall in the 2006 draft. “A lot of people in the upper management felt like that was the wrong technique,” he said. “And I blame myself from the standpoint that I didn’t articulate. But I didn’t feel like I needed to as a coach.”