BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this.
The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent.
“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game. “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”
And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics.
There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan.
“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot.
The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward.
Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.
For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with.
“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”
In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well.
Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards.
“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said.
Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury.
Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.
“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”
BOSTON — For most of Friday night’s game, the Boston Celtics played the kind of game that on most nights would result in a victory.
But Toronto is one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference with talent, depth and an undeniable desire to win at all costs.
One strong quarter by the Raptors was just enough to put away the Celtics, 101-94.
And it came in the third when Toronto outscored Boston 33-18 which turned out to be the only quarter the Raptors (16-7) outscored the Celtics.
“They got hot; made some tough shots,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “The tough shots kind of hurt us.”
The tough shots and a flawless 8-for-8 performance from the free throw line.
While it’s a 48-minute game, there was no getting around the fact that it was Toronto’s dominance in the third that ultimately determined the game’s outcome.
“If you look at it from our perspective it’s what went wrong; if you look at it from theirs, they ratcheted up the defense quite a bit (in the third quarter),” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “It was hard for us to break their … break their wall of defense.”
In the third quarter, Boston shot just 27.8 percent from the field, 30 percent (3-for-10) on 3’s and a woeful 5-for-10 from the free throw line.
“We started making everything difficult for them and not letting them get that easy in and try to take advantage of that,” said Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.
The Celtics had no answer for the All-Star point guard who led all players with 34 points, 21 of which came in the second half.
Bradley was the lone Celtics starter who seemed to be in a good shooting flow, tallying 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting which included five made 3’s.
The Celtics made him work a lot harder than he usually does to score, but he still managed to tally 24 points – just four points below his season average – on 9-for-25 shooting.
He made a few more turnovers than usual, but Horford still put together a relatively balanced performance. He had 19 points and seven rebounds with six assists and a blocked shot.
The X-factor in Friday’s outcome had to be Powell. A 5.8 points per game scorer this season, Powell had 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting along with a game-high five steals.
With Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out, the Celtics really needed its core starters to step up and have a productive night offensively. Crowder just didn’t have it going on Friday, scoring just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting which included a number of 3s that rimmed in and out on him.