Raptors-Celtics Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 12, 2013
The Boston Celtics have played surprisingly well since losing point guard Rajon Rondo for the season. They were stunningly awful without Paul Pierce for the first time in 2012-13. Pierce should be back on Wednesday night when the Celtics try to win their 10th straight at home and 10th in a row overall versus the Toronto Raptors. After the Celtics' five-game winning streak ended with Sunday's 91-79 loss at Oklahoma City, coach Doc Rivers decided on the flight to Charlotte to rest Pierce on Tuesday instead of Kevin Garnett or Jason Terry as Boston (34-29) finished a stretch of nine of 11 on the road. Without their leading scorer, the Celtics were routed 100-74 by the league-worst Bobcats. Boston scored 28 second-half points and finished with a season-low 27 field goals. "What I was thinking was that I wish I would have given Kevin (Garnett) a night off too, in the middle of the game," said Rivers, whose team fell to 14-6 since Rondo suffered a season-ending torn ACL. "That would have been terrific. Then we would have had two guys that had gotten some rest.'' The Celtics can worry about paying back the Bobcats on Saturday, but their focus now is on the Raptors (25-39) as they open a three-game homestand. The Celtics could have used Pierce in Charlotte, as well as a better effort from Garnett, who finished with a season-low five points, but now both get a chance to move up the all-time scoring list in front of their home fans. Pierce is 10 points shy of passing Charles Barkley for 20th place (23,758), while Garnett needs four to move ahead of Jerry West for 15th with 25,193 points. Pierce had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Garnett scored a season-high 27 with 10 boards the last time these teams met, a 99-95 Boston road win Feb. 6. The Celtics have won their last four in Boston versus Toronto by an average of 24.3 points after posting a 107-89 victory on Nov. 17. Boston hasn't lost at home to the Raptors since Jan. 23, 2008, and it has a chance to win 10 straight at TD Garden for the first time since a 13-0 run from Nov. 18, 2008-Jan. 2, 2009. "That's a tough place to play," Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said after Tuesday's practice. "That Garden is special for those guys, but you know, we can go in there and win that game," Toronto, though, could find it difficult to leave Boston with a win if Rudy Gay can't play. The forward traveled with the team, but he's listed as questionable after missing Sunday's 100-96 win over Cleveland with a stiff back. Facing the Celtics for the first time since being acquired from Memphis on Jan. 30, Gay had a team-best 25 with a season-high 12 rebounds on Feb. 6. Raptors center Andrea Bargnani scored 13 points off the bench in that contest - his first after missing 26 with a torn elbow ligament - but the former No. 1 overall pick didn't make the trip to Boston due to a strained right elbow. Toronto has won two of three since a five-game skid, but it has lost 19 of 23 in this series.
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