BOSTON — Jared Sullinger was piling up the rebounds and needed an assist from sidelined guard Rajon Rondo to realize what was happening.
Sullinger scored 25 points and grabbed a career-best 20 rebounds, Avery Bradley had 20 points and the Boston Celtics held on to snap a nine-game losing streak with an 88-83 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
“I didn’t even think about it until Rondo said, ’Look up at the scoreboard and get one more,”’ Sullinger said of his rebounds total. “To look up and see 19 rebounds, I didn’t know I had that many.”
Sullinger’s 20-20 was the first by a Celtics player since Kevin Garnett’s first game in Boston in 2007. Garnett was dealt — along with Paul Pierce — to Brooklyn during the off-season.
Jeff Green scored 13 points and Kris Humphries 12 for the Celtics, who nearly blew an 18-point, second-half lead on a day they dealt away two more players in a three-team trade.
“That might be the first time all season that we’ve won with defence,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said of his team’s off shooting night.
The Celtics won despite hitting just 34.5 per cent from the floor (29 of 84) and only 3 of 20 in the final quarter.
DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points and Kyle Lowry had 18 with 12 assists for Toronto, which lost for just the third time in 11 games. The Raptors weren’t much better from the field, making only 38.5 per cent (30 of 78).
“Honestly, we missed a lot of shots we usually make,” DeRozan said. “It was just one of those nights. That’s when you have to pick up on the defensive end and we just didn’t do it.”
Trailing 73-56 entering the final quarter, the Raptors scored 18 of the first 22 points to close the gap to 77-74 on Steve Novak’s 3 from the left corner with 4 1/2 minutes to play. Boston missed 13 of its first 15 shots in the opening eight minutes of the fourth.
The Raptors nailed three 3-pointers as they made their charge, with Novak hitting two and John Salmons the other.
After Toronto cut it to three, Green scored on a drive, hit one free throw and Sullinger sealed it from the line as Boston had enough to hold on.
Toronto had it down to 81-78, but DeRozan lost the ball on a drive with about 40 seconds left.
“They did a good job of keeping DeMar from getting to the basket,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
Sullinger went 4 or 4 from the line in the final 30 seconds to seal it after missing a pair.
“I knew I was getting mentally cussed out by my father,” he said. “We preach free throws in my family. My father was my high school coach.”
Boston could have starting point guard Rondo back in action as soon as Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. He went through a workout on Wednesday and was dressed in warmups, sitting on the bench after going through drills just before tip-off. He’s been sidelined since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last Jan. 25.
Boston led by four at halftime and pushed it to 53-44 on Sullinger’s one-handed flip in the lane five minutes into the third quarter and used a 18-5 run late to open a 71-53 advantage on Sullinger’s putback with 25 seconds left in the quarter. Sullinger’s turnaround, 13-footer gave the Celtics a 73-56 after three.
The Celtics won for just the second time in 14 games on a day they shook up their roster a bit more. Earlier Wednesday, Boston sent guards Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to Golden State in a three-team trade, getting back centre Joel Anthony from Miami, a conditional future Philadelphia first-round draft pick, the Heat’s 2016 second-round pick and cash.