First impressions: Celtics 91, Raptors 87

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Jermaine O'Neal rejects one of three shots on the night.BOSTON -- Instant reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors 91-87 in a preseason battle Sunday night at the TD Garden:


After Toronto rallied to the lead late in the fourth quarter, Boston's bench refused to let this one slip away. Camp invitee Stephane Lasme provided perhaps the highlight of the night, blowing past Andrea Bargnani while driving for an emphatic one-handed slam that put Boston back on top with 2:48 to go. Nate Robinson got a shooter's bounce on a 3-pointer to push Boston's lead to four and the Celtics hung on from there.


Boston's lead ballooned as high as 15 points in the second quarter, fueled by the bench, which stretched out a five-point, first-quarter lead early in the second. Semih Erden, Marquis Daniels and Delonte West each had buckets as Boston's lead reached double figures with 9:04 to go in the second stanza, and, with the starters back on the floor Rajon Rondo hit a 15-foot fadeaway for a 38-23 lead with 4:18 to play. Toronto rallied back into it, but Boston held the fort.


The bench trio of West, Daniels and Robinson each chipped in five field goals while connecting on 15-of-22 shots for a combined 35 points to spark the reserve effort.


With Jermaine O'Neal limited to seven minutes as he debuted after sitting out Boston's first two preseason games with a sore left hamstring, Erden continued to log big minutes. Despite foul woes, he chipped in four points, five rebounds and two assists over 21 minutes, finishing with a team-best plus-nine in the plus/minus category.


The Celtics improved to 3-0 on the preseason. The record really doesn't matter, though there certainly would have been some hand-wringing if the C's gave up a double-digit lead against a rather lowly Raptors squad in the first Garden game of the year. Yet again, Boston leaned hard on its bench and the reserves responded by pulling out another victory with inspired play late in the game.