Before last night's game, Doc Rivers spoke of his team's tough win 48
hours earlier against the Milwaukee Bucks. What made it special, he
suggested, was that the Celtics had managed a victory despite not playing very well.
He could have saved the material for his postgame summation as well. This was another hold-your-nose-and-swallow job.
"Again, we didn't play great," Rivers said, after the Celtics
persevered for a 91-89 victory before 15,201, many of them to see
Toronto rookie (and Concord, N.H., native) Matt Bonner. "But you've got
to fight it. And we did."
This was certainly not a game to showcase anything other than sheer determination, for that's what pulled the Celtics
through. They didn't shoot well (42.3 percent). They got outrebounded,
again (49-41). They had too many turnovers (19). They boinged four
straight free throws in the final 16.5 seconds. They never led until the
fourth quarter. Gary Payton went scoreless in 33 minutes (and Rivers
was a lot more concerned about the minutes than the point total).
But, hey, they were playing Toronto, so none of that mattered.
It was the Celtics'
third straight win and gives them a little oomph as they head West for
the first of a five-game road trip tomorrow night in Sacramento. They
won't be back here again until Dec. 15, by which time, as Mark Blount
noted, "our true character will come out."
Blount had the game's biggest hoop - and the last one for Boston. With the game knotted at 87, the Celtics
center swooped in and guided a Paul Pierce miss into the basket with
33.4 seconds to play. That made it a season-high 22 points for Blount,
who Wednesday had his season high (16) in rebounds.
there was plenty of suspense remaining. Pierce (20 points) made two
freebies (following a traveling violation on Bonner) with 23.7 seconds
left to make it 91-87. The Raptors got a quick hoop from Donyell
Marshall to make it 91-89 with 18.6 seconds left, and the Celtics called time. Out of the break, the wrong player (Blount) made the inbounds pass to the wrong player (Tony Allen), and the Celtics rookie proceeded to brick two freebies. But Marshall couldn't squeeze the rebound and the Celtics retained possession with 15.7 seconds left.
Then, Toronto fouled Pierce. He, too, missed them both, with 14.7 seconds left.
go crazy inside, but there's nothing I can do about it. They did the
right thing by getting to the line," Rivers said. He's right about that.
The Celtics attempted 33 free throws to Toronto's 15.
there was still a 2-point lead to protect and plenty of time for
Toronto. The once-mighty Vince Carter tried to score inside, but was
swallowed up by Raef LaFrentz (14 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks).
Carter, whose winning trey here a while back set off Rick Pitino's famed
"the negativity in this town" tirade, was barely visible, going 5 of 17
for 12 points in 37 minutes. Then, with time winding down, Payton
stripped the ball from Jalen Rose and time expired.
was an ugly game," said Payton, who went 0 for 6 from the field. He
went scoreless once last season, but that was more in character; he was
ejected after only nine minutes. "We didn't play well. I'll just say
If this sounds a lot
like Wednesday night, well, it was. "We grinded it out," Rivers said.
There was no controversy between Pierce and Rivers, although Pierce got
the early seat because of foul trouble. The Raptors got 17 points and 11
rebounds from Marshall, and 19 points from Rose.
Raptors played an excellent first half, leading by as many as 14
points, as Bonner put on a shooting clinic in the second quarter that
made you think he had been secretly raised by marksmen in Vilnius
instead of Concord. The kid had 10 points in the quarter - he was
Toronto's leading scorer at the half - and four of the five hoops were
Bonner had an
Iversonian following, complete with banners and signs. He hit his
teammates up for 16 tickets and the good hoop fans of the Granite State
did the rest. "I can't take care of the whole state. There are more than
16 people in New Hampshire," he said.
didn't take their first lead until Ricky Davis (13 points) dropped a
trey with 8:53 remaining to make it 73-72. There were two more ties and
two more lead changes the rest of the way, with the biggest lead being 4
points. It all came down to the final minute, just like Wednesday, and,
again, the Celtics got by. Barely.