by Jonathan Evans
Every once in a while the schedule presents the ideal barometer game, a chance to see where each team truly stacks up against the rest of the pack. For the C’s, a matchup with the Raptors was an opportunity to see if they still have that hunger to squash all who dare throw a rock at the throne. After cruising to a W the night before and failing to play with any consistent focus or intensity thus far, could they flip the switch to take out a hungry challenger?
For the Raptors, this was a litmus test to see how for real they truly are. Can they make the leap to the upper echelon of the conference, or are they resigned to just being a nice team that will inevitably play some first round playoff games on NBATV and then never be heard from again?
In the Garden tunnels, Sam Mitchell holds court with reporters for over 20 minutes before the game. As opposed to the focused and direct pre-game session from Doc, Sam seemingly talks for as long as someone stands willing to listen. His wide-ranging session ranges from extolling Jose Calderon to arguing for comprehensive wealth re-distribution. Clearly, Sam spends way too much time in Canada. Such a radical, socialist idea would never gain traction in the United States.
— J.O. comes out aggressive for the Raps, hitting his first four attempts from the field to give Toronto the 10-5 advantage early.
— Official timeout. Celtics look flat thus far. It looks like Doc’s concerns about inconsistency from his starters are once again proving correct. His team is shooting just 25 percent from the field while pretty much allowing Toronto to get whatever they want on the other end.
— Calderon steals Boston outlet pass. Finds J.O. for the alley. Seriously is it 2002? Toronto +7.
— Off of a switch Garnett sets up on Graham, misses turnaround jumper. C’s now shooting just 3-14 from the floor.
— Powe forces J.O. into a tough jumper that misses wide. On the other end, drive and kicks lead to a Pierce three from the left wing to pull the Celtics within two. Timeout Dinosaurs, 16-14 with 2:30 to go in the first.
— To the surprise of no one, Powe manhandles Andrea inside. Fouled, hits two freethrows to knot the game up.
— Kapono bails out the Raptors on consecutive possessions with big jumpers. Next time down, Kapono finds Humphries for the slam. Quarter ends with Raps up by 5, 23-18. J.O. led the way with 10 points in the period. To put that in perspective, that’s twice as many points than he had for the entire game the night before.
— Andrea picks up two fouls in less than 15 seconds. Just a hunch, but I bet Gerald Wallace wouldn’t have done that.
— For Toronto, Humphries pulls down defensive rebound. Big Baby, the always-enthusiastic portly pivot, then proceeds to fall on top of him. That could’ve gone a lot worse.
— The Raptors run a beautiful break as four players all touch the ball without a dribble. Solomon entry pass to Bosh in the paint, then to Kapono cutting baseline, then to a streaking Humphries for the slam. Perfect. 32-22, Raptors.
— C’s get out on a break, but a Rondo pass to Tony Allen is broken up by Graham. Toronto has been with them step for step, hustling and forcing Celtic mistakes. This is reinforced moments later as Rondo penetrates and passes to Danny Ainge sitting baseline.
— J.O. sets up on Big Baby. Pump fake, Baby bites and fouls J.O. who takes the hit and then hits from the baseline. Is it too early to use my ‘what year is it?” line again? 35-24 Dinosaurs.
— Not willing to give up control of the game, a K.G. fadeaway jumper is immediately countered by a Graham three from the baseline. The listless Celtics are being abused on both sides of the floor as Toronto is holding them to 32 percent shooting while getting whatever shot they want on their end. Moments later, J.O. sets up in the high post finds a cutting Kapono for a lay in.
— Under four minutes to go in the half, Kapono misses, but Calderon is there for an uncontested offensive rebound. I repeat, Calderon, shortest man on the floor, uncontested offensive rebound. Possession leads to a drive for J.O., giving him a game high 17 and Toronto a 15-point advantage.
— Three minutes left in the period and were treated to a little excitement as things are getting heated between J.O. and Perk. Away from the ball, Kendrick plants forearm to the chest of J.O. Repeated contact by Perk after the whistle leads jawing between the two and the requisite double technicals from the officials. Cooler heads prevail and Mitchell pulls J.O. out of the fray. Probably for the best since Perk definitely has the age advantage in this tale of the tape. Put it this way, when J.O. got in the League, Perkins was in the sixth grade.
— Toronto goes into the half with a solid 12-point cushion. The not yet fossilized J.O. leads the way for the Raps with 19 and 8. On the other end, P-Double and Ray Ray combine to shoot 4-17 for the less than inspired Celtics.
— Fast break. Calderon finds Parker for jumper. Parker hits from 20 to extend the Toronto lead to 15. On a semi related note, I want Jose Calderon running all aspects of my life. I feel like he could control my tempo and make smarter decisions than I ever could.
— Ray badly misses a pull up in the paint. That was one of those ‘take away his Jordan wearing privilege’ type misses.
— Drive and dish, Pierce finds K.G. for the jumper, 57-46. In a way that only he could, K.G. demonstratively yells at his team, prodding them to turn it up. On the other end, Bosh silences the crowd with an alley-oop. Perhaps K.G. should yell a little louder, if that’s at all possible
— K.G. jab step, turnaround, buckets. Next time down, K.G. throws cross-court pass to Pierce who hits from three. Timeout Canada.
— Looks like the C’s have finally started to play some defense, forcing Toronto into long jumpers and keeping the ball away from J.O. and CB4 down low. Boston outscores the Raptors 15-8 over the final six minutes of the period to claw back into the game going into the fourth.
— Kapono splits two defenders and banks in a runner off of the glass. I honestly didn’t know that he could do that. That’s 12 for Jason, Toronto +8.
— Looks like someone decided to wake up Paul Pierce. He backs down Kapono and converting the old fashioned three-point play, 69-66 Toronto.
— Pierce goes to work again on Kapono. J.O. forced to help leaving Powe open for slam, 71-68. Next time down, P-Double continues his abuse of Kapono, hitting a fadeaway to pull C’s within one, 71-70 with 8:14 to go.
— Calderon rattles in a three, 74-70 Raptors, 6:30 to go.
— Pierce pulls up for three in traffic, early in the possession. All an all a terrible shot, yet he wets it. Oh the other end, Parker responds with a three of his own to extend the Raptors lead back to four. Not to be undone, Pierce keeps the pressure on with yet another three. After a terrible start to the game, that makes 4-5 from the field this quarter so far.
— Calderon miss, House three on the other end. First lead for the Celtics since it was 5-4 early in the first.
— J.O. gets position in deep, hits over Baby to put Toronto up three. Where was that the entire second half for the Raptors?
— Out of timeouts, Ray flashes to the right wing, drains three to tie the game. Jordan wearing privileges have been restored.
— Clearout. J.O. sets up on Perk with under two minutes to go and the game knotted at 84. J.O. fades back for a jumper that Perk swats away. Indeed, Perk is a beast.
— This seems like a good time to wonder where exactly CB4 has been all night. I would imagine a possession like that is an ideal time to get your franchise player a shot attempt. Granted, J.O.’s been solid all game, its still probably not a good idea for Bosh to play 40 minutes and only get 8 attempts from the floor.
— On the other end, Pierce is not done making an example out of Kapono. His turnaround fadeaway rims out and then back in. 86-84 Green. Perhaps it may be a good idea to not guard the hottest Celtic on the floor with the worst defender for the Raptors. Just a thought.
— J.O. dribbles out of bounds. Yeah, that seems like the J.O. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing.
— Pierce from elbow, two dribbles right, fadeaway, buckets. Boston leads by four with a minute to go. Everyone in the building knew exactly who was going to take that shot and where they were going to take it from but in the end it didn’t matter. Knowing it is one thing, stopping it from happening is another. Truth Hurts.
— Ensuing possession, Pierce drives by Kapono and lay in past the outstretched arms of CB4. 90-84 with 34 seconds left. Ballgame.
— MVP chants start raining in for The Truth who finishes with 36 points, nine boards, and four dimes. Twenty-two of his points came in the fourth, single handedly equaling Toronto’s output for the final frame.