Celtics beat Raptors 91-79 to avoid season sweep

With only 11 games remaining, every one of them counts. Especially if you're the Celtics, who entered the game in a 3 way tie for the 4th seed and only a half game behind the 3 seed. It counts even more if it is your last chance to avoid a season sweep and your 4th loss to a team that you have used as a measuring stick the entire season in the Toronto Raptors.

Before the game even started the Celtics got some good news with Kyle Lowry being ruled out with a sore elbow. Maybe it takes getting a sore elbow to get that special referee treatment. Note to Isaiah, it may not be worth it. None the less, this immediately removed the "we don't have Jae Crowder" excuse C's fans could use in our last loss to Toronto, as each team was missing a main contributor. Even without Crowder, if we can't beat Toronto without Lowry, we may have to just tip our hats and call them better.

The 1st quarter was even with both teams feeling each other out, and ended up knotted at 25 a piece. Isaiah Thomas continued his hot streak by scoring 11 points and not missing a shot (4-4 from the field and 2-2 from the line), which is incredible considering he attempted the one shown below. Shoutout to whoever showed him a Jason Williams highlight reel within the last week, this type of stuff is becoming the norm for him.

The 2nd quarter remained close throughout as well (sensing a theme here?), and was back and forth for the duration. The first 6 minutes were highlighted by Terry Rozier on the Celtics end, who played some productive minutes to give Isaiah a breather. He grabbed an authoritative defensive rebound, knocked down a 3, finished an and-1 on a drive, and played aggressive defense while flying all around the court.

As fun as it was to watch Rozier, it was equally as frustrating to watch Marcus Smart, who continued his shooting struggles going 0-6 in the half. Otherwise, Avery Bradley threw down his 2nd impressive alley-oop slam, and it took a desperation 3 at the buzzer for Isaiah to miss his first shot of the half that wasn't blocked. IT led all scorers with 13, neither team led by more than 3 in the entire half, and they went into the break tied at 46. The half featured 10 lead changes, 14 ties, and no lead greater than 3 points.

The 2nd half started much the same as the first until the Celtics defense began to clamp down on the Raptors. That defense combined with Evan Turner catching absolute fire enabled the C's to carve out an 11 point lead with 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Turner was doing it with the dribble, the pass, and the shot. He put up 13 points and 2 assists in the 3rd alone. Before the frame ended the lead was trimmed to 7, 69-62, much in part due to an inexcusably stupid foul by Marcus Smart on a prayer from DeMar DeRozan as time expired.

In this close game that lead felt more like 11 goals than 11 points, but we all know how the NBA works. Including the end of the 3rd and their 6-0 run to start the 4th, Toronto ripped of a 10-0 run to trim it to 1 with 9:25 still remaining in the 4th. The Celtics first hoop of the quarter came with 7:45 left on a Marcus Smart drive, his first hoop of the game, and it came on the heels of him getting absolutely screwed by the officials on each end of the court.

That seemed to galvanize the C's as the next trip down Isaiah hit a 3, they got a stop, and then an Amir Johnson slam off of an Isaiah Thomas dish. Toronto scored, but then Isaiah hit ANOTHER 3, and Toronto called a timeout as the lead was back up to 7 points with 4:37 to go. It never really got closer than that, and an Avery Bradley dagger 3 with less than a minute left put the Celtics up 12 and put this one in the books.

This was a big win for the Celtics, and a great team effort. They only allowed 31 second half points, and shut down the Raptors when they needed to. Isaiah Thomas led the scoring with 23 points, while Evan Turner had a much needed 17 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds, doing a little bit of everything. Amir Johnson continued his good play putting up a double double with 11 points and 14 boards, and Avery Bradley had 16 points and 8 rebounds.

They beat a quality team tonight, but again they finally cracked through while one of their stars was hurt. It is still a promising W, and a well timed and much needed one at that. These teams could certainly meet again in the postseason, and you never like going against a team that beat you 4 out of 4 times in the regular season. This W helped in the standings (tied for 3rd again in the East), and also helped mentally.

Also it was win number 42, which means the Celtics have clinched a winning season, and Brad Stevens will finish with his first winning record as our Head Coach.

Photo Credit: NBA.com

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