Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Celtics 91 - Raptors 79: C's win their third in a row

The Celtics came into the TD Garden on Wednesday night not only looking to avenge a loss from five days ago up north, but in fact make a statement against the Toronto Raptors with a win. They accomplished just that with a long road trip on the horizons, Boston might have gained more momentum with a 91-79 victory as they continue their climb back up the Eastern Conference standings.

All-Star Isaiah Thomas added to his month of March tear with another 20-plus point performance (23) to lead four C's in double figures. Evan Turner, who's also been on a roll as of late (third straight start), finished his night with 17 points and 7 assists, while Avery Bradley has found his stroke again, chipped in with 16 points and 8 rebounds. Amir Johnson recorded his second consecutive double-double with 11 points, 14 boards and dished out 5 assists to help the Celtics grab their third win in a row overall and 16th of the last 18 games at home.

Kyle Lowry did not play due to a sore right elbow and DeMar DeRozan struggled for most of the night as he went 6-for-16 from the field for 21 points on the night. Terrance Ross, who's been a pain in the C's side all season, added 13 points off the bench and Jonas Valanciunas returned to the line-up after missing four-games to chip in with 10 points and 7 rebounds for the Raptors who are now 48-22 and 2.5 games behind the East leading Cavaliers.

It was all tied up 46-46 at the half before the Celtics jumped out to the biggest lead of the night at that point 69-58 late in the third quarter. It was shortly lived as the Raptors went on a 10-0 run to start the fourth, taking advantage of Boston scoring drought (eight straight missed shots) in that span. Boston would then go on a 10-4 spurt of their own and grab a 79-72 lead and never looked back as they picked up their first win over Toronto in three-tries and snapping their four-game winning streak in the process.

"They beat us. They spanked us," said Raptors' coach Dwayne Casey. "We talked about how good of a team they are if we don't play with force. When you don't play with force you're going to have trouble scoring, and we had trouble scoring."

This win ensures the Celtics will finish the season with at least a .500 record, clinching Brad Stevens his first winning season since being hired as head coach three-years ago.

"It's big," Thomas said. "We wanted some confidence and momentum going into this tough West coast trip and we got it. We wanted these three-games and we got them."

Boston now at 42-30 are tied with the Hawks (own tie-breaker) for the third best record in the Eastern Conference, will head out on a season-high five-game western swing beginning Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns. Tip-off is at 10 PM ET on Comcast SportsNet New England.

Game Notes:

Celtics (44 percent) limited the Raptors to 34.8 percent shooting from the field, including going just 6-for-22 from behind the arc. Marcus Smart continued with his offensive woes as he shot 1-for-8 from the floor (2-of-19 in the last two games) for 2 points off the C's bench. Speaking of the second unit, they also struggled finishing the night with 15 points (5-for-18). Jae Crowder missed his sixth straight game nursing a right ankle sprain, but will travel with the team this weekend.

Joel Pavón 
Follow us on Twitter:@CausewayStreet

Picture used via: Getty Images

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