So how will Jose do in his return to the court? That would be question #1 as we get this thing going. Rondo has struggled shooting but if he is allowed to get into the paint that will cause problems. Raptors won the opening tip and Jose got it to Bosh who hit a fading jumper. The Celtics would respond with a basket from Brian Scalabrine who was replacing Perkins in the line-up. Jose looking good early as he would get his first score of his day. Paul Pierce, who had already killed the Raptors once this year he hit his first attempt of this day. Chris Bosh mad his way to the line and made a pair. The two teams were exchanging blows early. Pierce came back with an answer for Bosh and they both had 4 early. Jamario Moon would dial it up from long distance. Celtics would have their first failed trip of the day and the Raptors would get it to Bargnani who was fouled and heading to the line for two. He could only make 1-2 and Raptors had a 10-6 lead early on. Moon would add to that with a two point shot this time around.
Ray Allen would give the Celtics a much needed three pointer. Paul Pierce just after that would get injured as it appeared he had banged his knee. But while the Celtics had a gimpy Pierce they would march on and take the lead 14-12. Glen Davis checked in as Pierce was on the bench and in pain. No wheel chair had been brought out yet. Ray Allen was healthy though and he made another three point and the Celtics despite a key loss in Pierce were taking over. Ray Allen would drain yet another 3 point that would 4 of 4 all from long range. If you are a Raptor fan you are not happy, if you have Ray Allen on your fantasy squad your thrilled. Raptors who lead early by 6 points were now down by 8 points with the score 20-12. Rajon Rondo would get to the line looking to extend that lead. He would make both and Celtic lead was 10. Chris Bosh would finally have an answer with a score for the home side. A nice driving hook shot for Bosh. Jose Calderon would extend his free throw streak to 74 in a row as he was fouled and sent to the line. Ray Allen was just hot as a pistol though as he hit yet another 3 pointer that was 5 in the quarter if you were counting. Kevin Garnett would miss a pair from the line after getting to know Jake Voskhul. Jake would whack him again but not be as fortunate as Garnett would make both in his second chance from the line. Celtics were allowed to have 3 chances to score but they would miss them all but still lead 27-18 with just over 2 minutes to play in the quarter. Calderon was getting beat bad by Rondo but he still had his free trow streak going. It was rapidly becoming as irrelevant as the Raptor 3 pointer streak that is somewhere over 800 games if you care. Both teams were a little chilly to close the quarter with Celtics holding a 28-20 lead. Rondo with no one in his way would get a easy lay up and the Celtics lead 32-20 which ironically was the same score after the first quarter when they visited the ACC. That would lead to a 118-103 thrashing that was on my birthday. It was not exactly the present I was hoping for. This was not what the Raptor Fans were expecting from their team on this day as well.
It would start much the same. The much talked about Boston bench would score just as easy as the starters to begin the quarter. Bargnani would answer with a basket. But we were rapidly reaching the point that exchanging hoops was not going to get it done. Andrea would try to hit a 3 pointer but miss and Celtics were slowly getting defense going. Eddie House would hit a jumper. He is one of about 40 players I have heard rumours about coming to Toronto. But today he was a Celtic and making his jump shot. Joey Graham would make it to the line for a pair and Joey would make them. But defense was the issue and the Celtics were owning the paint and able to enter it at will. The Boston lead had climbed to 15 points as they lead 39-24 with 8:46 to play in the half. Raptors were now struggling to get anything they would final get a score on a Graham tip in. He would get fouled as well but miss the free throw. It was 41-26. Andrea Bargnani would hit a 3 pointer and try to draw some life to a lifeless team and crowd at the ACC.
Doc Rivers needs a win for his team and was quick to call a time out and try to stop the Raptors from getting any kind of momentum at all. It would end up doing just that and Bargnani would pick up his 3rd foul and leave. But Anthony Parker would get a 3 pointer and get the natives a little excited in the stands. A slam dunk by Bosh and a scuffle between Joey Graham and Brian Scalabrine and the crowd was back into it and so were the Raptors with the score 42-34. Graham would in the game after the double technical fouls take the ball at the red head and score. Joey was fired up and flying around. The Celitcs would score a basket and it would not calm the crowd. Paul Pierce who was back in now would make a 3 pointer that would take some wind out of the crowd. The lead was back to 11 points with the score 47-36 Celtics. Brian Scalabrine would hit a 3 pointer in response to all the Joey G energy and it was a big one as the Celtics had a 50-38 lead. Ray Allen would make a jumper and lead was climbing again. Rajon Rondo would take Will Solomon to school just like Jose and he had a dunk. Calderon meanwhile was questionable to return at all. He had looked non existent on defense. He is a bad defender normally but he was showing the signs of not being at 100 percent. That will be the Raptors story and they will stick to it. But honestly with the type of injury he had going against Rondo was not the first game back you would prefer. The Celtics had re-established firm control as they would take a 54-41 lead into the half.
Joey Graham lead the Raptors with 8 points and had 5 rebounds and a block. Good for Joey and I do mean that, but without some help it would be a wasted effort. Meanwhile Ray Allen on the strength of a strong 1st quarter had 17. Jose Calderon was going to start the second half and I strongly object for what it is worth. But I am not making those calls. Celtics would miss a 3 pointer to start the second half but Bargnani would miss as well. Paul Pierce was back and scoring after he had a long break after hurting his knee in the 1st quarter. Jamario Moon got himself to the line and made a pair. Kevin Garnett despite all the Celtic success was shooting 1-10 after another miss. Rajon Rondo was back to form as he would just wiz past Calderon again and score. Chris Bosh was not able to throw down a dunk. He and Bargnani had struggled along with Granett for the Celtics. Rondo would have a spill and turn it over and Bargnani found Bosh for an easy score. Cue Mr. Allen to make a dagger 3 pointer. Kevin Garnett would follow that with a dunk and the Celtics lead 63-45 as the Raptors started the quarter shooting just 1-8.
Andrea Bragnani would try to change it making a 3 pointer. But this game looked lost and Rondo was able to get past Jose at will. It was leading to the Celtics being able to attack the Raptors from both inside and out. Bargnani to his credit was trying to fight through as he got to the line and made a couple free throws. Chris Bosh would hammer Glen " Big Baby" Davis. But he would not cry as he stepped to the line to take and make his free throws. Parker would hit a rare jump shot for the Raptors in this quarter. But this game had got out of hand with the Celtics on top big 67-51 with 5:31 to play to 3rd quarter.
Rajon Rondo found himself guarded by Bargnani, he would blow past him draw the blocking foul on Bosh, and head to the line and make a free throw to go along with his basket. Garnett would have a dunk and the score line was getting big with it now 71-51. Bosh would drive looking to tear the rim down but instead he would get fouled and sent to the line. The Celtics were not making anything easy for the Raptors. Bosh would make the free throws but mission accomplished for the Celtics. They did not want to allow a dunk and let Bosh get confident or this crowd to get excited. Bosh would look to take an ill advised 3 pointer and it was exactly what Celtics would like to see him do. He would miss the 3 pointer and Celtics grab the rebound and just keep motoring along. Doc Rivers was really into it on the bench and you would think it was a close game by looking at him. But given the recent struggles of the Celtics you can understand why he was keeping on his team to stay after it. Chris Bosh would block Rondo from getting another easy basket. The Raptors were just getting attacked by penetration and had no way to stop it. That is why the Celtics lead 73-55 after 3 quarters of play. That and a very solid defensive effort that you have come to expect from the Celtics since the arrival of Kevin Garnett.
Some eye opening stats for you. The Raptors were shooting just 31% and had only 8 points in the paint. The Raptors would get a score from Bargnani and Kapono would have one decide to spin in for him followed by another jumper and the Raptors had a 6-0 run to start the quarter but they still were down by a lot. A time out from Doc Rivers to make sure his team got back on track with a 75-61 lead to defend with just over 10 minutes to play. The big three would return after the time out as Doc Rivers was not going to trust his bench to hang on. The impact was right away as the Celtics got Ray Allen to the line for a pair to end the mini run. But Kapono would score again. But the lead was still 14 points. Jose Calderon was not going to come back for any kind of comeback. Roko Ukic was in at the moment. He would try to hit a 3 pointer that could have cut the lead to 10 points. Rajon Rondo looked to heading to making the Raptors pay but Jamario Moon would Rondo....Rondo with a block. But it was still a long road back. But the crowd was trying to hold out hope for the Raptors.
They would get to the line and make a pair and Raptors had an 11-2 run going. But it was Ray Allen time as he made another big 3 pointer. He would then pick up his 5th foul on Joey Graham who was one Raptor that was going all out all day. He would make the foul shoots and Moon had a basket. Jason Kapono had another and Raptors defense had stepped up the lead was down to just 8 point with the score 80-72. This was all being done with Chris Bosh on the bench waiting for his time to check back into the game. I am still not buying it as far as a comeback but the crowd was and the Raptors seemed to respond as well. I will say this though comeback successful of not this was important for Raptors confidence as this was first half of a back to back that concludes tomorrow night in Boston. I will be live blogging that on for The Score so no Raptor Rewind by the way. But we have a game to finish. There was still time for the comeback with 5:52 remaining.
Celtics would split a pair from the line by Davis. Ray Allen after a failed Raptor effort would step inside and make a mid-range two ball and Celtic lead was back up to 11 and the crowd had been quieted once again. Garnett with a successful trip to the line built there lead back to 85-72. But the Raptors and this crowd refused to accept defeat. Chris Bosh would get a monstrous jam and it was 85-76. But once again Ray Allen had a long distance answer for the Raptors and the crowd. It was 88-76 for the Celtics and time ticking away. Raptors had 2 chances to cut the lead to single digits again but miss. But the would be given another change and Roko Ukic would score to cut it to an 8 point lead. But we were under 2 minutes. But don't tell the Raptors as Andrea Bargnani hit a huge 3 pointer and the lead had shrunk to 5 points. Raptors had a chance to cut the lead again but Moon would miss and Paul Pierce would use a Kevin Garnett pick on Moon to get free and score and I think end all hope of a comeback. Celtics led 90-83 with only 40.3 seconds to play. Raptors had the ball after a time out and it would end up with Bargnani on the line with 34.5 seconds to play. Not what Doc Rivers wanted to see from Davis. Bargnani made both with the clock stopped. Raptors would send Ray Allen to the line who is a good free throw shooter just like he is from beyond the arc. Jesus Shuttleworth AkA Ray Allen made both. A Kapono 3 ball and Raptors were not accepting their fate. 92-88. Allen would get the ball and be fouled again and make both. Just 7.2 seconds left and down six points. Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo were huge in getting their team a win. The Celtics would walk away with what ended to be a much harder fought win then you might have guessed. But the Celtics will take the 94-88 win and head home and look to do it again.
Give the fans at the ACC and the Raptors credit they never gave up. But the fact was the lead was to great and every time the Raptors thought they had a chance Ray Allen would come along and say not so fast. That along with Rajon Rondo running wild half the time against a less then 100 percent Jose Calderon. It was a mistake to let him play in this game and I don't know who's call it was but it was the wrong call. Raptors with or without Calderon would be back at it tomorrow night in Boston. I will be live blogging it and I will give you the details tomorrow. I look forward to it and the Raptors can take a bit of confidence into that game based on how they tried to fight back.