Five from afar: Celtics vs. Raptors

Frank Gunn/AP Photo

Kevin Garnett throws down an alley-oop dunk vs. the Raptors.Five thoughts and observations after watching from afar as the Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors, 117-112, Friday evening in a preseason battle at the Air Canada Center:

  • Rondo earns his stripes: After Celtics coach Doc Rivers suggested Rajon Rondo needed to get to free throw line more, he responded by not only getting to the the charity stripe 15 times Friday night, but six of his eight field-goal attempts came near the rim, suggesting he was attacking aggressively. After some passive performance at the start of the preseason, that's an encouraging glimpse of the Rondo that was so instrumental in the Celtics' success last season. The fact that he also canned 80 percent of his freebies (he's a lifetime 63 percent shooter at the stripe) is gravy.

  • The alley-oop: Rondo and Kevin Garnett haven't been able to connect on many lobs this preseason, something a lot of observers have focused on to see just how good Garnett's knee is feeling entering the new season. With 3:08 to play in the first quarter, Rondo sent a perfect lob from inside the mid-court circle and Garnett delivered an emphatic two-handed slam (see photo at right). Garnett seems to be gaining steam as the regular season nears. He was having his best preseason performance Wednesday night in New York before getting tossed, then chipped in eight points (3-of-3 from the field; 2-of-2 at the line) with six rebounds, two assists, and a block in 15 minutes against the Raptors.

  • Hey, Von! With Stephane Lasme locked inside US borders to avoid visa issues, Von Wafer showed he's ready to fight to keep his roster spot. Wafer finished 4-of-6 shooting (3-of-3 beyond the arc) for 14 points with three rebounds, two assists, and a steal over 26 minutes. This was his most sustained offensive performance of the preseason, but he still needs to show that he can do more than score. Wafer committed a team-high three turnovers and finished minus-15 in the plus/minus category, second worst on the team behind only Mario West (minus-23).

  • The BabyFace: The KG technical foul fiasco in New York clearly did little to stop referees from handing out the infractions for the slightest of protests. Glen Davis became the latest victim, giving a mild arm shrug after a (questionable?) call against him midway through the third quarter. That led to THIS reaction. Yes, that about sums up how the rest of us feel about all these calls.

  • Robinson provides the scoring: Sure, it's likely the result of heightened minutes in the exhibition season, but Nate Robinson is averaging 14.5 points per game, including better than 18 points per contest over the last three games. The Celtics need Robinson to continue being aggressive with the ball (he's done a nice job attacking the rim the past few nights) and if that scoring output stays in double digits into the regular season, he'll be a key factor in Boston's success this season, even with all the new bench weapons the team has added.