Celtics continue home dominance over Raptors 107-89


Celtics continue home dominance over Raptors 107-89

BOSTON Rajon Rondo had a triumphant return to the Boston Celtics lineup as the C's continued their home dominance of the Toronto Raptors with a 107-89 win.

Rondo, returning after a one-game absence because of a sprained right ankle, finished with six points and 20 assists as the Celtics defeated the Raptors in Boston for the ninth straight time.
It was Rondo's 33rd straight game with 10 or more assists.
"He's a rare bird," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "I mean, he really is."

Toronto made things interesting in the third quarter as they cut the Celtics lead to as little as two points.

During that third quarter stretch when the Raptors made the game competitive, there was Rondo doing his part to keep the Raptors at bay.

A Rondo 20-foot jumper pushed the C's lead up to 57-53 in the third. Later in the quarter, he tossed a lob to Chris Wilcox for a dunk that once again gave the Celtics a four-point cushion, 63-59.
"He was actually made about the 20 assists," said teammate Courtney Lee. "He thought he could have gotten 30."

In addition to assists, Rondowas contributing in other ways as well.

In addition to his usual double-digit assists - 33 games and counting now - he also chipped in defensively both in terms of his individual assignment along with helping his teammates.

Kevin Garnett slipped on the floor while guarding Andrea Bargnani. Rondo quickly left his man to get in Bargnani's face. Rondo's quick reaction caught Bargnani off guard, which resulted in the 7-footer traveling.

But no Celtic victory can be viewed as a one-man mission, as multiple Celtics contributed to the C's pushing back the Raptors run.

Especially Jason Terry, who had a trio of 3s in the third quarter, the last of which capped off a 16-3 run to end the quarter and give the Celtics a 79-64 lead going into the fourth. He finished with a season-high 20 points.

With the win, Boston (6-4) extended their home winning streak against the Raptors to nine in a row.

The C's set the tone by exposing one of the (many) weaknesses in this Raptors roster - first quarter defense.

Toronto came into the game giving up more than 26 points in the first quarter of games this season.

The Celtics, behind the hot shooting of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, led by as many as 14 in the first before settling on a 30-17 lead.

It was clear that the Celtics were in a good flow offensively, courtesy of Rondo's return to the lineup.

In the first quarter, Boston had 14 field goals made, 11 coming on assists. Of those 11 assists, seven came from Rondo.

But the Raptors soon began to exploit the C's biggest weakness with a slew of second and third-shot opportunities in the second quarter.

A put-back basket by Ed Davis cut Boston's lead down to 40-33 before the Celtics called a 20-second time-out.

It didn't matter as Toronto continue to rally back into the game. A 3-pointer by John Lucas made it a 40-36 game, the closest Toronto had been since the first few minutes of the game.

And Rivers once again had to call a time-out, hoping to get his team back on track in what was suddenly a game after having the makings of a blowout earlier.

Terry did his part to stem the bleeding with a steal and subsequent jumper, but Lucas kept Toronto within striking distance as the Raptors went on a 14-7 run to trim Boston's halftime lead to 47-42.

Still looking for first point, Heinen stays patient


Still looking for first point, Heinen stays patient

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It may be strictly due to injuries or because Ryan Spooner is being moved back to third line center full-time, but Danton Heinen is going to get another top-six look on the wing. The 21-year-old Bruins prospect will be skating on the left wing with David Krejci and Matt Beleskey in Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild after serving as a healthy scratch last weekend against the Montreal Canadiens.

Heinen has only two shots on goal in the four games leading up to the scratch, and has been quiet offensively after leading the Bruins in goal-scoring during the preseason. Clearly there’s an adjustment to be made there, and it looked like the playmaking rookie winger was starting to develop a little more confidence trying to make plays while skating with Krejci and David Backes in last week’s win over the New Jersey Devils.

Heinen actually looked reminiscent of Krejci on a couple of plays, pulling back the puck after entering the zone and catching a trailing B’s teammate with a perfectly executed lead pass on the offensive rush. That effort plus a trip to the ninth floor press box last weekend seemed to reinforce just how much time he has to make plays, and that should be a benefit for both Heinen and his linemates.

Sometimes getting that first NHL point is the hardest part when a player breaks into the league, and it’s been that way for the young winger through his first four games.

“[Krejci] is such a good player, and I just try to complement him any way I can,” said Heinen. “You never want to be up in the press box, but it gives you a different perspective on the game. It’s a different angle. From up there it looks like you’ve got way more time. I definitely think I can be more patient with the puck, and make some smarter plays.”

Heinen started to do that in his best NHL game to date prior to being scratched against New Jersey, and it resulted in greater offensive possession and a couple of potential scoring plays getting created for the B’s second line. Unfortunately it didn’t lead to actual goals, and Heinen knows that’s what needs to happen through him if a player like him, with an offense-minded reputation from his University of Denver days, is going to stick top-6 in Boston.

“You can’t rely on the [top] guys every night,” said Heinen, who watched the Habs beat the Bruins on Saturday night while essentially shutting down Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. “When we’ve been out there we’ve kind of been getting some chances, but we’ve got to bear down.

“[Krejci] likes to play with the puck a lot, so you just get him the puck, go in hard on the forecheck and try to get open because he’s a good distributor.”

It sounds like a simple plan that might be a very good thing for young Heinen, who needs to start breaking through offensively if he wants to stick around in Boston for the long haul. 

Celtics pay tribute to Craig Sager in Tuesday's practice


Celtics pay tribute to Craig Sager in Tuesday's practice

The NBA is honoring longtime TNT broadcaster Craig Sager to begin the season, with teams wearing Sager-themed shirts across the league. 

Sager, 65, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014, and it was announced in March that he had an expected three-to-six months to live. 

The Celtics celebrated Sager in full force at the end of Tuesday’s practice, changing into shirts with multi-colored flowers and clashing patterns in an ode to Sager’s signature style. The group gathered for pictures and shouted “Sager Strong,” a hashtag that’s circulated in support of the 65-year-old. 

After news emerged that his cancer had returned in March, TNT worked out a deal with ABC that allowed Sager to cover the NBA Finals for the first time in his 34-year career, leading to a memorable exchange with LeBron James after the Cavaliers won the NBA title.