They still had to stop Vince Carter, who had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds.
"We knew he was going to shoot the ball. We just didn't want him to get an open shot," Celtics forward Antoine Walker said Friday night after Carter scored 33 points, then missed a late 3-pointer as Boston held on to beat Toronto 93-91.
Paul Pierce scored 30 points and Walker added 20 as Boston sent the Raptors to their third consecutive loss. The victory also avenged a buzzer-beating game-winner that Carter made last season in Toronto's last visit to Boston.
Carter had a chance to repeat the heroics in the last 10 seconds on Friday. Trailing 91-88, Alvin Williams missed a 3-point attempt from the left corner, but Charles Oakley grabbed the rebound and dished it to Carter up top.
"I always feel good about my chances," he said. "Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don't. This time, I missed bad."
Tony Battie rebounded the ball, then Randy Brown drew a foul and sank both free throws to make it 93-88 with 2.8 seconds left. Morris Peterson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"With a few seconds left in the game, you're just trying to score," Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens said. "You don't have a whole lot of time to think or make a move."
But Cartr didn't have much time last March, either, when he hit a fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Boston 96-94. The ending drew cheers even from the Boston fans, but it set Celtics coach Rick Pitino off on a memorable rant in which he complained, "All this negativity that's in this town (stinks)."
This time, Pitino praised his team for intelligent play as it battled back from an early deficit with full-court pressure that led to 13 steals.
Toronto, which was celebrating the fifth anniversary of the franchise's first game, fell to 0-3 for the first time in its history even though Carter has averaged 28 points per game this season.
The Raptors led by as many as 21 points early in the second quarter. But the Celtics scored 38 of the next 52 points, cutting the deficit to seven at the half.
Pierce hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 14-2 third quarter run, and Walker and Kenny Anderson also hit from beyond the arc as Boston turned a nine-point deficit into a 60-57 lead.
The Raptors scored nine consecutive points early in the first to turn a 7-5 game into a 16-5 lead. Toronto added a 15-4 run to close out the quarter to make it 33-13 after one; Carter already had 14.
The Raptors took a 36-15 lead when Carter hit a 3-pointer with 10:11 left in the second quarter. Boston gradually cut the deficit to 15 points, then scored eight consecutive points to make it a seven-point game, 47-40, with 2:12 left in the half.
Pierce scored Boston's last six points of the first half. A victim of a nightclub stabbing in September, Pierce had 28 in the Celtics opener Wednesday night, a 103-83 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
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