Celtics

Celtics bench shows mettle to beat Raptors, 76-75

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Celtics bench shows mettle to beat Raptors, 76-75

TORONTO The Boston Celtics like their bench.

After seeing them outlast the Toronto Raptor's starters down the stretch, now we all know why.

The C's squeaked out a 76-75 preseason win over the Raptors, a game whose outcome wasn't nearly as impressive as the way it came about.

Rookie center Greg Stiemsma tipped in his own miss with 12.6 seconds to play for the victory. It was fitting that the game was decided by one of the Celtics' rookies when you consider all four of them were on the floor in the game's final seconds while the Raptors played three starters.

"You couldn't ask for a better situation," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "I could see the game getting closer with about seven minutes, you could see they were making a run and I thought this was a great time to throw the young guys in and see if they could hold the lead and withstand their rush. So it was a great experience for them."

Although Stiemsma's tip-in ultimately decided the game's outcome, it was the play of fellow rookie E'Twaun Moore that stood out. Drafted in the second round of last June's NBA draft, Moore came up with a couple of clutch baskets in the game's final 1:51 -- his only two baskets of the game.

"You can see why we like E'Twaun," Rivers said. "He wanted the ball, and he took it and made big shots."

The more you see him play, the more he plays at a pace that's atypical for most rookie guards. Moore credits his comfort level to being in college for four years and spending some time in Italy during the NBA lockout.

"Basketball is basketball, no matter where it's played," he said. "That's how I feel when I'm out there on the court."

It was the first game for the Celtics since the team announced that Jeff Green would be out for the entire 2011-2012 NBA season. Green will have surgery to repair an aeortic anureism on Jan. 9.

"Jeff is just . . . it hits home because it is your little brother, it is your guy," said Boston's Kevin Garnett, who had nine points and seven rebounds while playing just over 24 minutes. "I'm just glad that it was fortunate to be caught early, and he can go ahead with his life and make some adjustments to that. I just hope everything works out for him."

Boston was led by Ray Allen's 12 points and Marquis Daniels who chipped in with 11. Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox were active off the bench, scoring nine and seven points, respectively. Toronto's Andrea Bargnani led all scorers with 14 points on 4-for-14 shooting.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

The Boston Celtics remain a team whose collective talents are far more valuable than their individual abilities.

But there are going to be nights when someone has to shoulder a larger burden of the team in order to win. More often than not, that “one” will likely be No. 11, Kyrie Irving. 

We saw in Dallas what can happen when Irving feels he has little choice but to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. 

The Celtics were desperate for a spark against the Mavericks and found it in Irving, who scored 47 points in leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind 110-102 overtime win. 

It remains to be seen if the Celtics will require a similar Herculean effort tonight when they take the Miami Heat with a chance to extend their winning streak to 17 straight. 

This team isn’t one to dwell on success in the past, even if the past was just 24 hours ago. But there’s no getting around how what happened on Monday night might impact what we see against the Heat. 

Boston expended a tremendous amount of energy in rallying from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter at Dallas, the kind of effort that may be difficult to replicate against a Miami team that you can count on to play hard from the opening tip to the final horn. 

Irving’s performance was one of the rare instances this season when Boston clearly could not have won without their top scorer having a big game. 

“When we needed it most, he made big shot after big shot,” said Al Horford. “He had such good rhythm, I was thinking, ‘just let him keep it going.’ He just kept being aggressive, taking really good shots. He recognized he needed to be extra aggressive, especially at the end and score the ball for us.”

Scoring could potentially be at a premium against Miami which allows 102.5 points per game which ranks ninth in the league in fewest points allowed. Also, the Heat will test Boston’s perimeter defenders. Miami comes into tonight’s game averaging 11.1 made 3-pointers per game which ranks ninth in the NBA. 

The Heat are led by Goran Dragic who is averaging team highs in scoring (18.3 points) and assists (4.7) this season. 

These two squared off earlier this season in Miami with the Celtics coming away with a 96-90 win as Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum led the way with 24 and 20 points, respectively. In that game, the Heat were without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who will be in the lineup tonight as the Heat try to bounce back after losing three of its last four games.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE