Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 76, Raptors 75 (Preseason)

Ford Keys to the Game

Celtics 76, Raptors 75

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

E'Twaun Moore Challenge

E'Twaun Moore attempts to shield Leandro Barbosa's eyes from seeing the rim as the Raptors guard attempts a jumper.
Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

Doc Rivers has said over and over that winning the Celtics’ two preseason games this week is not a very high priority. Instead, his goal is to get the players who will make up his expected regular season rotation in shape for the opener on Christmas Day.

With four of Boston’s five starters playing at least 24 minutes and the team’s top reserves getting plenty of playing time as well, Rivers had reached that goal midway through the fourth quarter. That’s why the end of the Celtics’ bench was on the floor during crunch time this afternoon.

Boston’s starters handed over a comfortable lead to the reserves in the fourth quarter, but the Raptors made a run. Head coach Dwane Casey left his starters on the floor for the remainder of the contest and his team actually wound up taking a 71-70 lead after Jose Calderon’s free throws with 2:09 remaining.

The teams went back and forth from that point on, allowing Rivers to witness how his young players would handle a pressure-packed finish to the game.

He must love what he saw.

Rookie E’Twaun Moore hit two huge jumpers for the Celtics in the final minutes, but the key play of the game was when Greg Stiemsma notched his only two points of the game.

The C’s trailed by one with 26.4 seconds remaining after Amir Johnson put home a tip-in for the Raptors. Rivers called a timeout and drew up a play, which led to a baseline runner by Moore. The shot missed long, but Stiemsma was in prime position to clean up the miss. He caught the miss and tried to put home a tip-in of his own three separate times. The third time was a charm, and the bucket gave Boston a 76-75 lead with 12.6 seconds remaining in the game.

DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani wound up missing shots for Toronto on its ensuing possession, allowing the Celtics to escape with a narrow one-point victory.

Rivers was most concerned with using this game to get his starters into game shape, and he was able to accomplish that goal with ease. He wasn’t exactly worried about grabbing a win, but he has to be ecstatic that his youngsters were able to show great poise and pull out the preseason victory.

Key Box Score Line

Rajon Rondo didn’t even play 28 minutes during today’s preseason opener, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t able to fill up the stat sheet anyway.

Rondo was his typical self Sunday afternoon in Toronto and got his teammates involved from the get-go. He finished the contest with eight assists and only two turnovers in 27:21 of playing time. He didn’t exactly light it up offensively, as he finished with only five points, but he made up for that with his defense. No. 9 racked up four steals in his limited playing time, which is twice as many as any Toronto player. In addition to those numbers, Rondo also chipped in three rebounds.

The Celtics have to be excited about what they saw out of their point guard, who has missed some practice time due to a lightly sprained ankle. After watching him this afternoon, it looks as if he’s well on track to starting off this season in the same fashion he did in 2010.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Ray Allen led the Celtics with 12 points.
  • Paul Pierce did not play due to a sore heel.
  • Andrea Bargnani scored a game-high 16 points.
  • Boston's top two frontline reserves, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox, both grabbed five rebounds apiece.
  • Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with seven rebounds.
  • Ed Davis led the game with 10 rebounds.
  • Neither team shot better than 39.4 percent.
  • Allen and Jermaine O'Neal finished the contest with the game's best plus/minus ratings, at plus-13 apiece.
  • Two of Toronto's starters, Jamaal Magloire and James Johnson, played less than 10 minutes apiece.
  • Gren Stiemsma's only basket of the game was the game-winner.
  • The Celtics attempted 23 free throws to Toronto's 13.
  • Eight Celtics scored at least five points.
  • Marquis Daniels scored 11 points while filling in for Pierce.

Quote of the Night

Doc Rivers on letting the young guys finish a close game in the preseason: "It was good, you couldn’t ask for a better situation."