Tonight was the Boston Celtics first look at the new and improved Toronto Raptors, and after this game, Toronto is not a team to mess with. Throughout the entire game, the Raptors were one step ahead of the Celtics: getting back on defense, making Boston take perimeter jump shots, and eliminating their fast break opportunities. For three quarters, the Raptors had the Celtics offense figured out. But in the fourth quarter, Toronto forgot about one of their former players, Leandro Barbosa.
If it wasn’t for Barbosa, who made clutch baskets, drove to the hoop and drawing contact, and coming up big on both sides of the court, Boston’s win streak would have been snapped. The Celtics came into the fourth quarter down by 10 and it didn’t look too good for Boston, but a quick 7-0 run shifted the momentum over to them. Barbosa can’t recieve all of the credit for tonight’s win however, Kevin Garnett must have found the fountain of youth because he scored 27 points along with 10 rebounds. The Garnett of old showed up tonight making huge buckets down the stretch and no matter who Toronto put on him, he was not going to be denied.
The Celtics defense also turned it up another notch in the fourth quarter as they silenced Rudy Gay for a majority of the quarter and that had a major impact on the outcome of the game. When Boston needed a stop they got one, and they basically willed themselves to a victory tonight. Jeff Green may not have had it going offensively, but his defensive plays in the closing minutes helped Boston seal the deal to help extend the win streak to five straight games.
Boston did have some difficulty tonight and went back to old habits against Toronto. The Celtics stopped playing with an up-tempo offense which slowed the team down and allowed the Raptors to set up on defense. Boston got horrible looks at the basket, and weren’t taking the ball to the hoop. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when Leandro Barbosa took the ball strong to the rim and drew some fouls. Once he penetrated the defense, it was easy for the other players on the floor to do the same and create spacing.
Tonight was probably the best victory so far without Rajon Rondo during this win streak. The Celtics had to adapt to not playing with a true point guard, and instead ran the offense through Jason Terry and Paul Pierce. Contrary to popular belief, from what I saw, the Celtics can win without Rondo down the stretch. But can they continue to do this? That remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, whether it’s Rondo or another point guard, the lack of a playmaker on the court may cause some issues down the road.
The Celtics look to continue their winning ways when they take on the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow night at the Garden. The Lakers also have a lot of injuries on their roster, so both teams will not be at full strength. But for Boston, all that matters is winning games, and right now, thats exactly what they’re doing.