On Wednesday night the Celtics played their first of two back-to-back games starting off on the road in Toronto. The Celtics came into the night looking for their fifth straight win, all coming after the loss of their All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. The Raptors made moves early this trade season and have a new look team led by former Memphis Grizzly, Rudy Gay. Rudy was involved in a blockbuster three team deal that sent longtime Raptor Jose Calderon out of town and brought Gay in.
Life without Rondo has caused the Celtics to implement an all new free flowing offense. In doing so the ball handling responsibilities are being shared by every player on the floor. In their first four wins the Celtics saw a very even distribution of scoring and tonight followed the same script. The team had six players in double digit scoring lead by their defensive anchor Kevin Garnett who finished with a season high 27 points. With the game hanging in the balance the Celtics stayed strong in the final minutes sneaking away with their fifth straight win 99-95.
Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, drives to the basket as Toronto Raptors' Amir Johnson, right, and Rudy Gay defend during first-half NBA basketball game action in Toronto, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)
The Celtics continued to excel on the offensive end but unlike recent games the majority of the scoring came from their starters. All five finished in double digits while Lee and Bradley did a great job putting pressure on Toronto's guards. Paul Pierce had a rough shooting night going just 2-11 but managed to contribute in other ways finishing with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists. Courtney Lee has strung together numerous quality performances with arguably his best tonight as he went 6-11 for 15 points. By far the biggest contribution came from KG with the 27 points on 11-18 shooting. The Celtics looked to him continuously down the stretch and he managed to step up big when it mattered most.
The Raptors were led by their newest acquisition, Rudy Gay, who finished with a team high 25 points on 8-24 shooting. Although he was their top scorer the Celtics were able to keep Gay contained forcing him to shoot 1-7 from behind the arc. With Calderon gone Kyle Lowry has stepped into the starting point guard role full time and showed flashes of greatness instilling hope for the Raptors future. He finished with a near triple-double made of 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists.
Toronto Raptors' Andrea Bargnani (7) falls as he battles for the ball with Boston Celtics' Leandro Barbosa (12) during first-half NBA basketball game action in Toronto, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)
The Celtics bench struggled in comparison to their recent games with just one player achieving double figures in scoring. This came from their "instant offense" player, Leandro Barbosa who shot 5-8 good for 14 points in 21 minutes. Barbosa has stepped up big off the bench and has been seeing extended playing time due to the loss of Rondo. His style is anything but ordinary made up of off balance shots that oddly enough are extremely efficient. Jeff Green also had a solid performance finishing with 8 points, 6 rebounds, and some stellar defense against the Raptors frontcourt.
The Celtics will return home tonight as they play again tomorrow at home against the Lakers. This will mark the first and only visit of their long time rivals at the TD Garden. The team will have a good shot of extending their win streak to six games as the Lakers just lost their veteran forward Pau Gasol for six to eight weeks with a torn plantar fascia. Tip off is at 8:00pm as the game will be nationally televised. Despite both teams struggles this year you can expect a high intensity game as always between the two most winning franchises in NBA history.