Celtics continue home dominance over Raptors 107-89

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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.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

After Boston’s last game against Portland – a loss – Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he was encouraged by some of the things his team did defensively.

It’s safe to say Stevens won’t be singing that tone if the Celtics continue along the path they’re on defensively right now as the Washington Wizards went into the half with a 66-59 lead.

Washington, donning all-black clothes when they arrived at the Verizon Center, were very much looking as though they were digging a basketball grave for the Boston Celtics who allowed the Wizards to shoot a ridiculous 65 percent from the field in the first half and 61.5 percent (8-for-13) from 3-point range.

The Wizards scored the first four points of the game and spent all of the first half playing with a lead.

But the Celtics showed some fight late in the second quarter, going on a 14-6 run to cut Washington’s lead to 55-52 with 3:39 to play in the quarter.

Boston would later have a chance to tie the game, but Marcus Smart’s 3-pointer was off the mark.

And the Wizards, as they had done all game, made the Celtics pay as Bradley Beal drained a jumper that made it a two-possession game.

Here’s a look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half.

 

STARS

Bradley Beal

It was his idea to go with the all-Black look, and he backed up his talk with a strong first half of play. He has a team-high 14 points at the half along with five assists.

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas delivered yet another all-star caliber scoring performance in the first half for Boston. He led all scorers with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting along with a game-high eight assists.  

John Wall

After scoring just nine points when these two met on Jan. 11, Wall has 13 points at the half on 6-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds and three assists.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

It was an extremely efficient game offensively in the first half for Horford. He had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three assists.

Markieff Morris

He’s one of four double-digit scorers in the first half for the Wizards. In addition to his 10 points, he also has five rebounds and three assists.

 

DUDS

Celtics defense

At this end of the floor, the Celtics were absolutely atrocious in the first half. The Wizards shot a ridiculously high 65 percent from the field, and were just as lethal (8-for-13, 61.5 percent) from 3-point land. They have no shot at competing let alone winning tonight’s game, if they don’t turn things around and do so soon!

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Just about every part of Isaiah Thomas’ game offensively has seen tremendous growth this season.

But what has really separated him from earlier versions of himself, has been his 3-point shooting.

He comes into tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards shooting a career best 38.4 percent from 3-point range.

When asked about how he has elevated his game this season, the answer isn’t that simple.

“I don’t know” he told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “The game is slowing down for me. My teammates put me in position, my coach does … and I’m just knocking down shots.”

Because of his shot-making, Thomas has made it difficult for defenses to give him a steady diet of any style of play in trying to limit him.

And because they have to change things up with regularity, that has created more scoring opportunities.

“Sometimes they forget what they want to do (defensively) and leave me open for a three,” Thomas said. “Those are the the types of shots I need to knock down and I’m being aggressive.

He added, “I need to get to the free throw line, trying to make plays for my teammates. It’s one of those things where I’m in a really good zone now; a really good rhythm.”

A good rhythm?

According to NBA statistics guru Dick Lipe, Thomas is the first Celtic ever to make at least four 3-pointers in five straight games. Taking it a step further, he has made at least three 3-pointers in seven straight games which equaled Antoine Walker’s streak in 2001.

Thomas has also attempted 11 three-pointers in five straight games which is a franchise record. There have only been three longer streaks in NBA history - Golden State’s Stephen Curry (7 straight games, 2016); Washington’s Gilbert Arenas (7 straight games, 2005) and Dallas’ George McCloud (6 straight games, 2006).

He’s also averaging 3.1 made 3’s per game which would be a franchise record that’s currently held by Antoine Walker who averaged 2.7 during the 2001-2002 season.

And all those 3’s have added up to Thomas scoring at least 27 points in seven straight games, something that hasn’t been done by a Celtic since Larry Bird had eight such games in March 1988 as well as the 1987-1988 season.