THE NITTY GRITTY
Second-year center Jared Sullinger has been maybe the most vocal member of the Celtics in his desire to snap the team's lengthy losing streak and he backed up that chatter against the Raptors, posting team highs with 25 points and 20 rebounds over 39 minutes of floor time, and making enough free throws down the stretch to fend off the Raptors' charge. Avery Bradley scored 20 points on 8-of-21 shooting to go along with five rebounds, while Jeff Green added 13 points (despite 4-of-16 shooting) and five rebounds. DeMar DeRozan chipped in a team-high 23 points for Toronto, while Kyle Lowry added 18 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds.
Without Rajon Rondo and having traded away Jordan Crawford earlier in the day, the Celtics inserted undrafted rookie Phil Pressey into the starting lineup at point guard and the 22-year-old responded with a 10-assist, 0-turnover effort over 26 minutes. Pressey didn't score (missing all five shots he took), but calmly directed the offense and grabbed three rebounds along the way.
C'S CLOSE THIRD QUARTER STRONG ...
The Celtics were up five midway through the third quarter, but scored 20 of the final 28 points of the frame to build a 17-point cushion. Sullinger sparked the effort by making all three shots he took while scoring nine points in that span, while Pressey directed the offense for most of it and handed out three assists. But no lead is safe around here (see hashtag: #EveryGameIsAnAdventure).
... BUT LET RAPTORS MAKE A RUN
The Celtics went ice cold to start the fourth quarter. After a Brandon Bass dunk with 11:09 to go, Boston missed 11 of its next 12 shots (including nine in a row to start that stretch) and the Raptors embarked on a 16-2 run to charge within three with 4:34 to go.
The Celtics played with only 10 available bodies (and both Vitor Faverani and Kelly Olynyk played five minutes or less) as the team leaned hard on an eight-man core. ... Rondo was active, but it was just to get back in a game-prep rhythm with eyes still on a potential Friday return. That didn't stop the crowd from chanting "We Want Rondo" on multiple occasions. ... Keith Bogans, excused from the team indefinitely due to personal reasons on Tuesday, was active due to Boston's lack of bodies but not with the squad. ... The Celtics turned the ball over only two times in the first half. This was one of their best ball-security games of the season (10 turnovers for only seven points).
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (14-26) snapped a nine-game losing streak while beating the team atop the Atlantic Division. Boston is hopeful Rondo will make his 2013-14 season debut when this three-game homestand wraps up on Friday with a visit from the Los Angeles Lakers. A three-game road trip looms after with stops in Orlando, Miami and Washington.