Raptors-Celtics Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 16, 2012
The Toronto Raptors have been forced to adapt without their starting point guard, who is expected to remain out for at least another week or two. The Boston Celtics hope they don't have to wait that long for the NBA assist leader to return. Rajon Rondo's status is uncertain for Saturday, when the Celtics look for a ninth consecutive home victory over Toronto. Rondo is averaging 12.5 assists but he missed his first game this season Thursday due to a sprained right ankle. Boston (5-4) squandered a fourth-quarter lead and its three-game winning streak ended with a 102-97 loss at Brooklyn. Former Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa started in Rondo's place and scored 17 points, but he had only two of the Celtics' season-low 17 assists. Coach Doc Rivers didn't seem certain about Rondo's availability for Saturday. "If he's ready to play whenever we play again, he'll play," Rivers told the NBA's official website. "If he's not, he won't. We'll just keep moving." Boston, which went 9-5 including one playoff game when Rondo was out last season, may not need him to defeat Toronto. Although the Celtics lost the last two meetings - both in Toronto with Rondo in the lineup - they were missing their point guard the last time the Raptors visited Boston on Feb. 1. The Celtics won that game 100-64, their third straight home victory in this series by at least 20 points. The Raptors (2-6) continue to play without point guard Kyle Lowry, who averaged 23.7 points in the first three games of the season before suffering a bruised bone in his right foot in the fourth contest. After losing four straight overall, the Raptors picked up their first road win of 2012-13 with a 74-72 victory at Indiana on Tuesday. Replacement point guard Jose Calderon, averaging 12.7 assists in his last three games, posted his first career triple-double with 13 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. To say Toronto relied on its defense - holding the Pacers to 32.0 percent shooting - may be a bit of an understatement considering the Raptors scored five points in the final 12 minutes, the fewest in any fourth quarter in franchise history. "We were exhausted," guard DeMar DeRozan said one night after a triple-overtime loss to Utah. "But it's about gutting it out. We had to rely on something, and it wasn't our offense tonight. It was all mental and heart." Toronto's defense has been a problem in recent visits to Boston, with the team allowing an average of 107.0 points on 52.1 percent shooting during its eight-game skid there. Paul Pierce was 8 of 12 from the field Thursday against the Nets, scoring 22 points, but he was upset with himself for missing a pair of free throws in the final minute. "I take a lot of blame for down the stretch," Pierce said. "I'm the guy they call upon to make the plays and I didn't make the plays tonight. It's a long season, but that's not the main reason we lost. You can point to a number of little things we talk about all season long."
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