Raptors-Celtics Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 01, 2012
Despite nagging injuries to some of their top players, the Boston Celtics have a good chance to surpass the .500 mark for just the second time this season. With the last of their injured stars possibly set to return, the Celtics hope to accomplish that feat as they try for an eighth consecutive home victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night. Even with injuries to starters Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Jermaine O'Neal, Boston (10-10) has won five of six. Allen played his second straight game since missing three with an ankle injury, and O'Neal was back following a three-game absence with a knee problem as the Celtics won 93-90 at Cleveland on Tuesday. Paul Pierce scored 20 points and Kevin Garnett had 13 while O'Neal and Allen each added 12 as the Celtics shot 50.7 percent to move one win away from topping the .500 mark for the first time since they were 4-3 on Jan. 4. Though the Celtics appear confident, they must improve after the Cavaliers trimmed a 22-point deficit down to two Tuesday. Boston blew an 11-point cushion in Sunday's 88-87 home loss to Cleveland. "I hate it,'' Allen said. "We won (Tuesday), but I'll take it as a loss in terms of getting better. Being able to play for a full four quarters is what I want. Every day we have to get better.'' Boston could get a boost if Rondo is able to return after missing the last seven games with a wrist injury. Averaging 15.0 points and 9.4 assists, Rondo traveled with the team to Cleveland and is expected back either for this contest or Friday versus New York. "(Rondo) being on the road means he wanted to work with the team,'' said coach Doc Rivers, whose team is 5-2 without Rondo. "With us, when you see a guy on the road, it means he's really close.'' Rondo has not played since he scored 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting in Boston's 96-73 home rout of Toronto on Jan. 18. With or without their star point guard, the Celtics appear in good shape to extend their home dominance over the Raptors (7-15), who last won in Boston 114-112 on Jan. 23, 2008. The Celtics have won 16 of 18 at home versus Toronto. Though the Celtics average just 89.0 points, they've scored 108.0 per game on 52.1 percent shooting during their seven-game home winning streak versus Toronto. Pierce was held to eight points against the Raptors earlier this month, but he's still averaging 23.2 in his last six home games against Toronto. Raptors leading scorer Andrea Bargnani (23.5 ppg) did not play at Boston two weeks ago because of strained calf, and could miss a fourth straight contest with the same injury. Jerryd Bayless scored 14 points while Ed Davis had 11 with 11 boards as Toronto returned from a 3-2 road trip to shoot 37.0 percent in a 100-77 home loss to Atlanta on Tuesday. "We came out with a competitive spirit, but I didn't think we sustained it long enough,'' Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. ''I was disappointed.'' Second-year swingman Gary Forbes, who had 10 points off the bench against the Hawks, scored a season-high 18 at Boston this month.
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