Raps blast past Celtics

Raptors' Amir Johnson and James Johnson go for a rebound against the Celtics' Chris Wilcox during...

Raptors' Amir Johnson and James Johnson go for a rebound against the Celtics' Chris Wilcox during the first half NBA action at the Air Canada Centre last night. (REUTERS)

Mike Ganter, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:00 PM ET

TORONTO - Think back to Raptors games with the Boston Celtics over the past five or six years and the outcome has been almost pre-ordained.

The Celtics start strong, man-handle the Raptors just enough to intimidate them and then watch the lead grow before coasting to another win.

Amir Johnson has been on the receiving end of far too many of those. So too has Jose Calderon, who couldn’t remember the last time the Raptors even enjoyed a win against the Celtics.

But Friday night, with the Celtics a little vulnerable playing the back end of a back-to-back and a wee bit undermanned with some injuries, it was the Raptors turn to play the role of bully and they enjoyed it to the hilt.

“Excuse my language but I guess we just got tired of gettin’ our asses busted,” Johnson said. “They have been beating us all season and the pre-season. We finally stood up and hit them in the mouth.”

With the Celtics still feeling the effects of an overtime game the night before and a 3:30 a.m. arrival in Toronto, the Raps jumped on them early.

By the end of the first the lead was 12. At one point it had been up to 16.

Even when it looked like the Celtics might find a way to get back in the game, the Raptors held strong.

“We just came in at halftime and made up our minds that we were not going to give up this lead. We kept fighting,” Johnson said.

But getting out to the quick start was the key, a real sore point for the Raptors for much of this season.

“It was big,” Johnson said. “We knew they had a back-to-back with the Lakers game. We all watched it and our strategy was to come in and just go ahead and hit them in the mouth first.”

The closest the Celtics got to the Raptors after that strong start was when they whittled the lead down to five early in the third quarter.

They wouldn’t get any closer.

James Johnson, who chipped in with a strong 14 points and seven rebounds not to mention three steals and a pair of blocks said it was all about payback.

“I don’t think nobody cared about their shot attempts or their scoring,” he said. “Everyone just wanted to win. It’s like I said, we had a bad taste in our mouth (from a 100-64 beating in Boston on Feb. 1) but we had to get over it because we had other tough teams on our schedule.”

DeMar DeRozan led all Raptors with 21 with three other starters all in double digits.

Calderon had 17 points to go with his 14 assists in one of his best games of the year.

“It was solid,” head coach Dwane Casey said of the win. “Everybody contributed. I thought our disposition was good. Guys came out and played with confidence and swagger. That’s the growth we want to see and not be in peaks and valleys in those situations.”

None of the Celtics Big Three were much of a factor in this one. Kevin Garnett, who came into the game having missed his final nine shots in the overtime loss to the Lakers in Boston on Friday, finally got it going and led his team with 17. Paul Pierce’s 12-point night was next best.

From the Celtics

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was not a happy camper after watching game film of his Celtics one-point loss to the Lakers Thursday night.

“We were awful,” Rivers said before Friday’s game at the ACC. “It was an awful game. I don’t say that often but it was no fun to watch. We didn’t play like we’ve played. We didn’t do anything right including me. It was just a bad game, a bad loss in a winnable situation. It happens, but I don’t like for it to happen. We didn’t post the ball. We didn’t run the ball. We didn’t block out. We didn’t execute. We didn’t get to any loose balls.”

And then, much to the dismay of a coach who is accustomed to so much more, the Celtics went out and set the bar even lower.

Credit the Raptors for taking advantage of this golden opportunity and pulling out the win but you would be hard-pressed to find a basketball fan who can remember the last time the Celtics looked this bad.

Rivers called the basketball his team played on Friday night “just one of those nights.” Little did he know he would have another one within 24 hours.

Long-term stay?

DeMar DeRozan has some company this week with his mother and father visiting. Maybe it’s his Mom’s cooking or just the comfort level that comes being surrounded by family, but DeRozan has been consistently aggressive going to the basket in the past two home games.

Not sure HOW long the stay was scheduled for, but the Raptors should offer to have the stay extended at their expense. If it means a paying a change fee on the ticket it would be worth it.

Following a 25-point night against the Bucks on Wednesday, DeRozan followed it up with a 21-point night on Friday that included a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line.

Kleiza dialled in

There were more than a couple of moments in the fourth quarter when it looked like the Celtics just might find a way to pull this one out.

And just about every time it started to feel that way, Kleiza would calm the waters with a successful three-ball.

Kleiza went into the final quarter without a point but hit three huge three-pointers to snatch back whatever momentum the Celtics had been building.

In the past five games, Kleiza is 12-for-24 from three-point range.


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