One of the goals the Celtics have left this season is to be spoilers in the Eastern Conference playoff race. While the Toronto Raptors entered last night's game at the TD Banknorth Garden with a healthy 6 1/2-game lead in the Atlantic Division, the visitors -- minus rookie Andrea Bargnani ( appendectomy) and later Jorge Garbajosa (left leg injury) -- learned a lesson from the cellar-dwelling Celtics.
Toronto saw how hard a team with nothing to lose can compete, as the Celtics stretched a 4-point halftime lead into a 95-87 victory, snapping a three-game losing streak.
Boston held Toronto to 40 percent shooting from the floor, and Kendrick Perkins, with solid help defense, made sure Chris Bosh (15 points, 11 rebounds) did not dominate. On the offensive end, Boston kept the ball moving well, recording 23 assists on 34 field goals.
"We had good team defense," said Perkins. "I thought everybody was alert. Everybody stuck with the scheme."
The Celtics used an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter to establish their first double-digit lead. Al Jefferson (22 points) capped the run with a hook shot that pushed Boston ahead, 55-42, with 5:44 remaining in the third. The Raptors battled back behind the 3-point shooting of Anthony Parker and Garbajosa and closed within 9 (65-56) by the end of the third.
The Raptors continued to take and make shots from the arc in the fourth, but the threat from Garbajosa ended when he went down with could be a broken lower left leg with 4:31 remaining.
Garbajosa went up to stop Jefferson from scoring on a dunk, then landed awkwardly on his left leg and immediately called for medical attention.
Jefferson, no stranger to ankle injuries, winced at the sight of the fallen Garbajosa, who left on a stretcher and was taken to New England Baptist, where he remained overnight.
The Raptors were never the quite same after Garbajosa went down.
"I really thought he broke his leg," said Jefferson. "When it happened, the first thing that came into my head was, 'Why did he jump? Just let me go.'
"They need him for the playoffs, but he's a hard-working player and he's going to try and challenge every shot. I respect him for that.
"I know we bumped, my leg hit his leg, and I looked down and he was just all twisted up. He was screaming and I could feel his pain."
The shaken Raptors managed to close within 4 (89-85) with 26.6 seconds remaining on a T.J. Ford 3-pointer, but they ran out of time.
The Celtics will try to be true spoilers tomorrow night, when the Orlando Magic come to town fighting for the final playoff berth in the East.
Pierce playing on Paul Pierce
did not meet with doctors yesterday after shootaround, despite plans for a consultation to discuss the wisdom of playing the rest of the season. He played a typically aggressive game against the Raptors (23 points, 8 assists), and coach Doc Rivers
treated any concern about Pierce shutting it down as much ado about nothing. "I don't think [team physician Brian McKeon
] came in early enough," said Rivers. "So, [Pierce] will talk to him, but I don't think there's anything there right now. Paul is having a lot of fun and it's nice. He's working with Gerald
]. With all the injuries, he's really the only vet left standing, but I think he's really enjoying his role with the team. It's really neat to watch. He's kind of overseeing the one-on-one games before and after practices." There is no schedule for when Pierce might see a doctor, either for a general health evaluation or a specific examination of his left elbow and left foot. "Maybe sometime this week," he said. "I'm stubborn." Asked if being stubborn meant he wanted to keep playing, Pierce said, "Meaning maybe I don't want to see the doctors. I just enjoy the game of basketball. I enjoy waking up every morning and having the opportunity to practice and play."
Responding to a story in Sunday's Globe, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck
shared his thoughts via e-mail on the job done by Rivers this season. In a notes column written by Peter May
, Rivers said it would be difficult to return without some security beyond the 2007-08 season. Grousbeck's response: "I think Doc has done well considering what he's been given to work with (youth and injuries) and [I] look forward to reviewing the season after it is over." . . . The Celtics announced that Michael Olowokandi
will miss the remainder of the season because of a fractured bone in his left foot suffered in practice Sunday. Olowokandi, a surprise free agent signing during training camp, played in 24 games off the bench, averaging 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds . . . Meanwhile, Brian Scalabrine
plans to return to action this season, despite speculation Sunday by Rivers that he might not. He will meet with McKeon tomorrow and is shooting for next Wednesday's game at Milwaukee. "It's a strained hamstring and I'm doing things to get it better," said Scalabrine. "I have this pain going down my leg based on the hamstring being really, really tight. Once we get over that hump, we'll be [closer]."
Rivers can relax a little now that his son Jeremiah
and the Georgetown Hoyas have qualified for the Final Four. "I was there," said Rivers of sitting nervously in the stands for Sunday's regional final in East Rutherford, N.J., against North Carolina. "It was really cool. My wife and I and my daughter went to the game." Asked how the 7-foot-2-inch Hoyas center Roy Hibbert
matched up with possible No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden
of Ohio State, Rivers wisely declined extensive comment. "I don't even know I can answer that," he said. "Hopefully, very well. Privately, I've had some great things to say about that, but I can't say [them publicly]. I'm sorry." Rivers said he will attend the national semifinal and the finals if the Hoyas make it, and he was asked whom he will be sitting next to, a reference to Danny Ainge
getting fined for sitting next to Kevin Durant's
mother during the Big 12 tournament. "I'm not going to sit next to Danny, that's for sure," said Rivers. "I'm going to sit next to Patrick Ewing Jr.'s
dad. I think that's legal."
© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.