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The Boston Celtics pushed their win streak to three with a convincing 116-103 victory over the visiting Toronto Raptors on Friday night. The big question coming into the game was whether or not the Celtics could defeat an inferior opponent in convincing fashion. It took a Kevin Garnett buzzer beater in overtime for the Celtics to defeat the hapless New York Knicks, and a super hero-like effort from Paul Pierce to sneak by an undermanned Philadelphia 76ers squad.
The Celtics put the question to bed in the third quarter of Friday night’s contest when they matched a six-minute Toronto scoring drought with a 13-0 run. When the Celtics defensive performance matched their offensive effort, the Raptors had no answer.
“We did defend, and it turned the game around for us,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
The Celtics’ third quarter defensive effort wiped the smile off of Hedo Turkoglu’s face, and ruined what would have otherwise been solid game-winning efforts by the Turkish international and teammate Chris Bosh. Rasheed Wallace drained a deep three with a few seconds remaining in the quarter, and rout was on.
The Celtics began the fourth quarter the way they finished the third. On the first possession of the fourth quarter, Paul Pierce finished a drive to the basket with an authoritative dunk over Chris Bosh, the artist formerly known as Erykah Badu. Bosh was kneed in the pelvis on the play adding insult to injury for the struggling Raptors team.
The key to the Celtics victory was their ability to score inside against the soft Toronto forwards. Up until this point in the season, the Celtics had been living and dying with the three-point shot, shooting 26.2 percent on 3-pointers over their last nine games after shooting 45.2 percent during their 6-0 start. Against the Raptors 38 of the Celtics 54 first half points came in the paint, but it wasn’t just KG and Kendrick Perkins carrying the load. Allen, Rondo, and Pierce penetrated the league’s worst defense with ease. The Raptors came into the contest allowing an Eastern Conference-worst 108.6 points per game, and surrendered 116 to the Celtics.
Paul Pierce finally got a little help from his teammates after scoring a combined 60 points in the Celtics previous two victories. Pierce’s 18-point performance was matched by Kendrick Perkins, and topped by Ray Allen, who finished with 20 on the night. Garnett and Rondo chipped in with 12 points apiece, and Rasheed Wallace provided 15 off of the bench while shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Ray Allen, who came into the game shooting 29.0 percent from downtown this season, ended his shooting slump, knocking down three of his four three-point attempts, and finishing the game shooting over 50 percent from the field. The Celtics shot 62 percent from the field.
The win puts their record at 12-4, good enough for first place in the Atlantic Division, in which they remain undefeated. The streaking Celtics travel to Miami on Sunday night to take on the 9-6 Heat.