Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Celtics' gritty defense leads to win over Raptors

The SportsXchange

BOSTON -- After an 18-point lead dwindled to three, the Boston Celtics got gritty.

The Celtics regained their composure instead of unraveling, playing stubborn defense down the stretch to hold off the Toronto Raptors 88-83 Wednesday to end Boston's nine-game losing streak.

"That might be the first game we've won all year where we won it on the defensive end of the floor," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "And there's no arguing it because we couldn't hit the broad side of a barn."

The Celtics struggled offensively down the stretch, but never let up defensively and forced the first-place Raptors into shots that missed and most often wound up in the hands of Boston forward Jared Sullinger.

Sullinger scored 25 points and pulled down a career-high 20 rebounds as the Celtics finished with a 58-44 advantage on the glass.

The Celtics finished with 19 offensive rebounds that led to 25 second-chance points and ultimately their first win of 2014.

"My teammates put me in position to get the rebounds and also to score," said Sullinger, who had eight offensive boards to go with the dozen he pulled down on defense. "The biggest thing was our ball movement -- how we had the defense scrambling. That allowed me to get inside and get the offensive rebounds. Defensively I thought we locked in great. We were helping one another. We were talking to one another and I thought this was one of our best games."

Guard Avery Bradley scored 20 and guard Phil Pressey had 10 assists for the Celtics. Point guard Rajon Rondo returned to Boston's bench for the first time this season, but remained in his warmups and did not play nearly a year after tearing his right ACL.

The Raptors used an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to set up an exciting finish but never could regain the lead.

"Yeah, it fell short," said guard DeMar DeRozan, who had 23 points and eight rebounds for Toronto. "Shots we normally make, rebounds we normally get just killed us. We just couldn't get over that little hump to give us that lead."

Sullinger wound up sealing it for the Celtics on a pair of free throws with 14.4 seconds remaining, putting Boston up 86-81. Sullinger's previous high was 17 rebounds and he was one point shy of his best scoring total. He also became the first Boston player to have a 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game since Kevin Garnett made his debut for the Celtics in 2007.

"It was great," Stevens said. "He did a great job. Twenty-five and 20 is a great night but I'm pretty sure that's not close to the record books around here."

Guard Kyle Lowry finished with 18 points and 12 assists for Toronto, which had won three straight.

"It's the first stinker we have had," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "It started on the boards. Any time you are giving up 25 points on second-chance points you are not going to beat too many people."

But the Raptors did manage to make it close after falling way behind.

Swingman John Salmons and forward Steve Novak hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the fourth and forward Amir Johnson's three-point play pulled Toronto within 75-67 with 6:49 left to play. DeRozan added a dunk to make it an 11-0 run for the Raptors, whose surge continued when Novak's 3-pointer cut Boston's lead to 77-74.

The Celtics slowed the comeback, but failed to put away Toronto until the final minute.

Lowry grabbed a defensive rebound and drew a foul with 45 seconds to play. He made the first free throw and pulled Toronto within 81-78, then grabbed his own rebound after clanging his second foul shot off the rim. Sullinger stripped the ball and drew a foul, but missed both free throws with 38 seconds left, leaving the door open for the Raptors.

Sullinger redeemed himself on the next possession when he grabbed the rebound off a miss by DeRozan, drew a foul and made both shots from the line to extend Boston's lead to 83-78 with 29.4 seconds remaining.

Center Kris Humphries made a jumper in the lane to put Boston up 55-47 and start the Celtics on a 10-2 run. Sullinger kept it going when he squared up from the top of the key and hit a 3-pointer with 2:46 left, giving the Celtics their largest lead of the game at 63-50 lead and prompting a time out by the Raptors.

DeRozan converted a three-point play with 2.3 seconds left in the third, but that was enough time for Sullinger to score again. Wallace heaved the inbound pass to Sullinger just inside the foul line. Sullinger dribbled and hit a turnaround jumper at the buzzer that gave the Celtics a 73-56 lead entering the fourth.

NOTES: Celtics PG Rajon Rondo was on the bench in uniform for the first time this season. Rondo has been out since Jan. 25, 2013, with a torn ACL in his right knee. ... Boston PG Avery Bradley was treated for a bruised right hand after leaving the game in the first quarter. He returned in the second and led Boston with 16 points in the first half. ... The Celtics acquired C Joel Anthony earlier Wednesday in a three-team deal with the Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors. G Jordan Crawford and G/F MarShon Brooks went from Boston to Golden State. The Celtics also received a conditional first-round draft pick the Warriors previously acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers, a second-round pick from the Heat in 2016 and cash considerations.
Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Football
View Comments (0)