Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted after the team's 99-95 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday that he didn't like the way the C's played for much of the game, but praised his club's ability to grind out its fifth consecutive win.
Boston entered the fourth quarter trailing by 10, but proceeded to outscore Toronto 30-16 over the final 12 minutes, leaning on a lineup of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Leandro Barbosa, Jason Terry and Jeff Green down the stretch.
"I didn't like how we played most of the game. We just kind of hung in there," Rivers told reporters in Toronto. "The beginning of the game I called a timeout -- I just didn't think we played with a lot of speed and a lot of force. And give them credit, I think some of it was them, too. This was a good win for us because we didn't have it at stages and we just kind of kept looking for the right lineup, the right group, and that last group, we were really small, and it did wonders. Just the ball movement offensively. I thought Kevin just is anchoring on the post, but I thought everybody did little things to help us win."
While Garnett served as something of an anchor for Boston down the stretch, scoring 11 of his season-high 27 points in the final frame, it was Barbosa who really sparked the Celtics' fourth-quarter comeback. Barbosa scored 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the fourth, including five straight midway through to give Boston its first lead of the quarter.
"He's such a great guy that can attack the basket," Rivers said of Barbosa. "And when you have Kevin and Jeff and Paul and Jet, there's no help coming. I mean, you can get to the basket and it's going to be tough to help. When he sees that, he becomes really aggressive."
Rivers was equally praiseworthy of some of Boston's key defensive plays in the fourth, including a pair of steals by Green and a baseline block from Terry on Rudy Gay that would have likely resulted in an easy dunk.
"Everybody did a lot of little things," Rivers said. "Jeff really struggled on offense, but he made huge plays down the stretch defensively. He got two big steals on the sidelines. Jet is our new shot-blocker. I mean, Rudy Gay has a dunk and Jason Terry got a block. I mean, that's almost impossible, and he did it. He just stuck his hand in there and made a play."
But Rivers wasn't as pleased with Boston's 14 turnovers, which led to 28 Raptors points.
"A lot of them were bad turnovers. Like you'd rather have dead-ball turnovers," Rivers said. "I think every one of our turnovers for the most part (were) live-ball turnovers, and not only live-ball, on the other side of the free throw line. If you're going to turn the ball over, you want the ball to go under your basket and turn it over. We turned a ton over above the free throw line and that's a layup."
The Celtics saw once again on Wednesday how effective the recently implemented spread offense can be. With Garnett as the lone true big on the floor, Boston kept the court spread with 3-point shooters and gave him the necessary room to work in the lane. He came through with a host of shots in the paint, including a decisive 12-foot fadeaway that gave Boston a five-point edge with 46 seconds remaining.
"We were disorganized, but organized. Right now, when you're small, the only guy running in the middle is Kevin," Rivers said. "I got on Jeff the one time because he ran down the middle of the floor and I told him, 'That's not your place. That's Kevin only.' When we're small, we want four guys behind the (3-point line), one guy down the middle of the floor, and we got a couple early posts to Kevin because of that."
The Celtics fly back to Boston after Wednesday's game and will look to match their season-high six-game winning streak when they host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.