"We have to fix the last 6 minutes" - Antoine Walker during the post-game interview.
Umm.......I'd amend that to be "We have to fix the whole 4th quarter". As the addage goes, a win, is a win, is a win. That said, we almost gave this one away and in my opinion, the Celtics escaped with a win tonight after playing pretty well for 3 quarters.
The game started off with a simple edict: Don't let Toronto bomb us into submission from outside. They only shot 8/20 from outside, but it was when they hit them that really mattered in this one.
The C's brought the game right to the Raps from the tip, drawing fouls on drives and inside play. Pierce, Payton and Allen all were getting to the hole early. By 5:49, the C's were leading 16-11 and all starters had scored. RD came in for TA and immediately paid dividends when he hit a 3pter with 4:26 left in the stanza to put the C's ahead 19-17. At 3:27, PP threw a nice oop to Raef on the break and C's led 21-18.
The C's kept penetrating, posting up and working the paint, but Bosh and Rose were keeping the Raps in the game. GP got a technical foul, after complaining about a foul called against him involving Bosh. The expletive he blurted out to earn the call was clearly audible: Oh (*insert common alternative word for excrement here* )! After the FT's were all said and done, the Celtic lead was only a bucket, 25-23. DWest came in for GP and Blount relieved Raef during the timeout at 2:05. Walker was working Bosh in the paint for scores, but Bosh hit a long 2 from the baseling at the end of the quarter and the Raps led 30-29 at the end of the 1st quarter.
Banks, RD, Big Al, DW and Blount started the 2nd quarter. Al scored with a soft hook from the middle of the paint to give the C's back the lead 31-30 at 11:35. However, Al ended up on Rose out front and Jalen smoked him off the dribble to put the Raps out front 32-31. Rose then went to work backing down RD in the low post for a score and foul. He missed the FT, but the Raps led 34-31 at 9:56. RD hit a pull-up 12ft jumper at 8:52, Banks did some nice work collecting a loose rebound in the paint for a score and then RD hit another jumper from the foul line elbow and the C's were back out front 37-36.
The C's dumped the ball into Blount at 5:02 for a short score to get the C's to 43-42. Marshall hit a 3pter at 4:38, but PP muscled inside for a score at 4:22 to keep the C's close at 46-44. PP hit a 3pter off a AW screen to make it 48-47 with 2:23 left. Double technicals were assessed to 'Toine and Alston for yapping at each other, which originally started with Rafer and Raef yapping at each other.
The 2 teams basically kept trading scored until the Half, going to the lockerroom with the Celtics trailing 54-53.
GP missed a bunny to start the second half, but TA got the rebound and was fouled on the attempt. The C's retook the lead 55-54 after the 2 FT's. 'Toine hit TA with a great pass inside for a layup and then AW took Araujo to the hole on an isolation at 10:25 and the C's led 59-54. Timeout Raptors.
TA had, as Tommy describes them, a "growing pain" at 10:03. He fouled Morris Peterson on a long 2pter after biting on a pumpfake late in the shot clock. However, MoPete returned the foul on the trip back down the floor and the FT's cancelled each other out. The dynamic duo worked a nice inside out play that saw PP hit a 3pter at 8:31 to put the C's ahead 65-58. GP passed out of the post to AW for a jumper just above the FT line. TA took Bosh into the post for a score and then AW drove on Marshall at 6:50 and the Celtics started to push out front 71-62. Timeout Raptors.
Some nice ball movement out of the break saw TA hitting a 18ft baseline jumper about a minute before he was spelled by RD at 4:18. AW then started getting hot from deep as he hit 3pters on consecutive trips and at 2:53 the C's had a lead 83-72. GP hit a trailing Raef across the middle for a 2 handed dunk and then PP hit a 3pter at 1:59 to put the C's in front 88-72. RD hit a cutting PP coming across the paint and PP got to the line and hit 2 FT's putting the Celtics up 90-76 with :47.1 left. The quarter ended with the score 90-79. The C's had put together a great run and it looked like we might have a comfortable win on our hands.
Shame on you, stop thinking that! We're not that team yet and the 4th quarter proved it.
Banks, Big AL, RD, DW and Blount started the 4th. At 10:41, Banks was involved in a scramble for a loose ball in front of the C's bench that saw him end up hitting the end of the scorers table (he was ok) and Chris Bosh leaving the game with what was later described as a lower back strain. If you saw the play live, the last thing you'd probably have thought Willie May would tell us when he provided an update a few minutes later was a back strain. Knee or ankle would have been my guess, but the Raps have to be thankful that it wasn't worse.
Big Al went back to work in the paint. He missed the first shot, but stayed with it to collect the rebound and get the score, a foul and converted the FT to put the Celtics ahead 93-79 at the 10:30 mark. The C's then went right back to him in the post for another score to make it 95-82 with 9:51 left. This is when it started going wrong for the C's.
Marshall hit consecutive 3pters within roughly a minute of each other and the Raps were back to trailing by less than double digits: 97-88 with 8:39 left. Jalen Rose continued his season high scoring night and after 2 more, of many FT's on the night, the Raps only trailed 99-92 with 6:10 left. The Celtics called a timeout and got PP, AW, Raef and RD back in. What was the reason for the Raps run? In my opinion, it was simple over-pursuit on defense, which ended up leaving Marshall et al with wide open shots.
The C's hit Raef inside and then PP underneath, niether resulting in FG's, but rather made FT's and the C's leading 102-93. Former Celtic Milt (Uncle Milty) Palacio got some redemption from the C's on consecutive scores, the second producing the 5th foul on PP. The Celtcs lead was now only 102-98 with 4:50 remaining. Doc and the C's then went "small" with PP, RD, TA, GP and AW.
RD drove and got to the line for 2 more made FT's. 104-98. Marshall got underneath for a rebound and put back. 104-100. PP drove and missed the shot, but 'Toine collected the rebound for a score in close to make it 106-100 with 3:37 remaining. Problem was, Rose was now able to take advantage of PP's foul situation and he beat Pierce badly to the hole for an easy dunk at 3:10. MoPete followed that up with a 3pter at 2:41 and now the score was a disturbingly close 106-105. Timeout Celtics.
Rose again took the ball to the hole for an easy score at 1:58 and the Raps had now taken back the lead 107-106. AW cut to the middle and drew defenders. He shuffle passed the ball to TA for a dunk to get the C's back out front 108-107 with 1:40 left. Rafer Alston hit a long jumper on the next possession and the see-saw continued as the Raps led 109-108 with 1:27 remaining in the contest.
GP and Rafer had been jawing on and off since the double technical incident earlier in the game and were now just going right at each other on offensive possessions. GP backed down Rafer into the post and when he drew defensive help from another Raps defender, dropped a nice pass to TA cutting down the middle for a score and foul. Celtics lead 110-109 with 1:16 left and TA on the line, but TA missed the charity offering. Rafer and GP both missed opportunities and with :30.5 left, PP and Rose put some serious effort into trying to collect a baseline rebound that saw Rose the last to touch the ball before it was called out of bounds.
It appeared there was a different play called on the Celtics ensuing in-bounds play after the timeout at :30.5. However, GP couldn't get open to get the ball back from PP and PP went into an isolation, milking the clock. He got off a decent shot, but missed. Uncle Milty got the rebound and pushed the ball up the court, but RD played some nice defense on him and his shot came up short of the rim, even though he managed to drive to within 5 ft of it in the remaining time.
The Celtics escape with a 110-109 win.
Player of the Game: A little 'Toiney, 'Toine, 'Toine
PP and AW had almost identical stats, save 1 crutial category: Assists, where 'Toine had a 6-1 advantage. Add that to 24pts/7 rbs on 11-14 FG's and 2-2 3pters and you've got what it takes to put him over the top tonight.
While he didn't win any awards, Tony Allen had a real nice night tonight also.
The 4th was ugly but we got the win against a gritty Raptor team the had nothing to lose and realistically no pressure on them. Let's hope Doc fixes the issues before Friday. Something tells me we won't get this lucky against TMac and Yao Ming.