In wake of this morning's trade that sent both Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to Golden State - not to mention Keith Bogans' absence - the Celtics were forced to take on the division leading Toronto Raptors severely short handed.
Only ten guys, including Rajon Rondo, were available for tonight's contest but it might as well have been nine. Rondo, as expected, did not receive any floor time despite going through all of his usual pre-game routines. As a result, Brad Stevens opted to go with rookie Phil Pressey to fill the void left behind by Crawford in Boston's starting line-up, marking the young guard's first career start in the NBA.
Due to their tweaked lineups, the Celtics stumbled out of the gates early, connecting on just 33 percent of their attempts from the floor in the first quarter. Had it not been for the Raptors getting themselves into early foul trouble and a small 6-0 run during the final two minutes of the quarter the Celtics might have been in much worse shape heading into the second. Instead, Boston took advantage of Toronto being in the penalty and knocked down seven of their eight attempts from the charity stripe to narrow the Toronto lead to just one.
Both teams essentially played each other to a stalemate in the second until Avery Bradley exploded for six straight points in just over one minute of play. Bradley knocked down two quick jumpers before finishing a fast break opportunity that had been created by a Pressey steal in the open court. Then, just a few minutes later, the Celtics wrapped the quarter up on a 7-0 run, giving the green team a small 45-41 advantage going into the halftime break.
The second half began much differently than the first as far as the Celtics were concerned. Led by Jared Sullinger's 15 points and 8 rebounds (25 points, 20 rebounds total for the game), Boston owned the third, outscoring Toronto 28 to 15 in the period. Sully was perfect from the field during the quarter and capped off his dominant run with a turn around jumper from the foul line to beat the end-of-quarter buzzer. Perhaps what was even more impressive than the shot, however, was the full court baseball pass that Wallace threw to set up the look for Sullinger.
Unfortunately, the Celtics fell apart in the fourth, allowing the Raptors to cut what was an 18 point lead down to as little as three thanks in no small part to their abysmal 1 of 17 shooting performance. But for the first time in a long time, the basketball Gods smiled down on Boston, effectively enabling the Celtics to snap their nine game losing streak to the tune of an 88-83 final score.
*With his first career 20-20 game, Jared Sullinger became the first Celtic to record at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a single game since Kevin Garnett did so on November 7, 2008 against the Indiana Pacers. (412 Celtics games ago).*
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