TORONTO — The Boston Celtics ended the season just how it began -- with a loss.
But just as optimism reigned supreme after the season-opening setback at Miami, the C's are a confident bunch heading into the playoffs, which begin this weekend.
They go in about as healthy as they've been all season, helped a little by veterans Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry being given the night off, and Paul Pierce (sore left ankle) sitting out the second half, in Wednesday's 114-90 blowout loss at Toronto.
"If we're healthy, which we will be for the playoffs, I like our chances against anybody," Terry told CSNNE.com recently. "We'll see."
Here are some of the factors that played a role in Boston's season-ending loss to the Raptors on Wednesday.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: With this being the final regular-season game for both teams, there's no telling what kind of lineup Doc Rivers will toss out there. Expect a heavy dose of Terrence Williams, D.J. White, Jordan Crawford and the rest of the C's bench players.
WHAT WE SAW: No Garnett, no Terry, and a healthy portion of Crawford and Williams who had 16 and 12 points, respectively.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Amir Johnson: Bass continues to improve in all phases, having scored at least 10 points in every game this month. The Raptors' season ends after this game, but Johnson's play is among the reasons Toronto feels good about its future. He ranks in the league's top-10 in field goal percentage, and averages a near double-double (12.2 points, 9.5 rebounds) as a starter.
WHAT WE SAW: This matchup didn't last very long, with Rivers pulling the plug on Bass' night after 18 minutes of court time. ass had six points and three rebounds. As for Johnson, who played 23 minutes, he also finished with six points and grabbed just two rebounds.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Having to deal with an explosive scorer like Rudy Gay is an ideal tune-up for what Jeff Green will have to contend with in the first round of the playoffs against the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony. As much as keeping a player like Gay from going off, Green must also make him work at the other end of the floor -- something he doesn't do enough of against the elite players he's matched up against.
WHAT WE SAW: Like the Bass-Johnson matchup, this, too, didn't have much sizzle due to Rivers' decision to limit Green's minutes. Green played 16 minutes and had 9 points while Gay played 25 minutes and finished with 19 points.
STAT TO TRACK: Toronto comes in having won six of its last seven games and four in a row, with all four victories over playoff-bound teams. Part of Toronto's strong play of late has been limiting opponents scoring in transition. In the last seven games, the Raptors are giving up 11.4 fast-break points, which ranks seventh in the NBA in the last seven games. Right ahead of them in that seven-game span? That would be the Celtics, who have limited teams to just 11.1 fast-break points over the same period of time.<
WHAT WE SAW: Boston finished with just nine fast-break points while the Raptors were able to get out and score 15 fast-break points.