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Raptors Explode in Second Half, Down the Celtics 109-96

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With a four game losing streak weighing on Toronto, the Raptors took out the falling Celtics 109-96.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

After a basketball team drops a few games in a row - especially if said team has been winning a lot - there are usually calls to make a change. For a Raptors team that had been riding high in first place in the Eastern Conference for the entirety of the season, a four game losing streak (and a drop in the standings) has voices of concern ringing out.

Those voices were apparently heard tonight as James Johnson got the start in place of the still-injured DeMar DeRozan.

The result was a crushing 109-96 victory over a flailing Boston Celtics team. And wouldn't you know it, the story was James Johnson. In 36 minutes, Johnson shot 7-for-12 from the field for 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished four assists. This is to say nothing of his suffocating defense (which produced two blocks) and even a return of his "Cocked That Joint Back" ways:

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Toronto overcame an extremely sluggish first half that saw the Celtics push the tempo, work the ball inside and hit the open three. It felt like the team was still playing in "mud", as mentioned by coach Dwane Casey before the game.

Still, in the second half the Raptors found their legs. Kyle Lowry recovered from a slow shooting three quarters to finish with 19 points on 7-for-17 shooting. Jonas Valanciunas muscled his way to a 15 point, seven rebound performance that included the sad put down of Old (Tyler) Zeller. And Lou Williams and Patrick Patterson hit shots (though, it should be said, Williams did shoot 6-for-16). The defense was amped way, way up.

"We were just tired of it," said Johnson about the first half. "Everybody buckled in, everybody took responsibility for what they were doing and we started playing Toronto Raptors defense." As the lead grew in the second half, it definitely felt like the Raptors of old had returned.

In the final analysis it's fair to note that the Celtics are not a good team. Earlier this season they traded their last remaining star Rajon Rondo. They just recently shipped off useful players in both Jeff Green and Brandon Wright. And, while they have some intriguing young talent in Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, they're not built to dominate. The Raptors should have, and did, win.

The important thing here to note is that the Raptors got back to what got them to the top of the Eastern Conference in the first place. And with DeMar DeRozan set to return soon, those voices can be heard once again. Only this time they could be saying something different.

Let's go Raptors.

Additional Notes:

My new favourite ongoing Twitter struggle is between Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm and Raptor fans. Throughout the game tonight he tried to do what he could to avoid their ire.

Some nice things about JV:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Great take by JV. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/thisismetweetingniceraptorsthings?src=hash">#thisismetweetingniceraptorsthings</a></p>&mdash; Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) <a href="https://twitter.com/HPbasketball/status/554075937063436288">January 11, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Foresight:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Raptors are going to murder the Celtics on the glass, especially with Johnson in. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/thisismetweetingniceraptorsthings?src=hash">#thisismetweetingniceraptorsthings</a></p>&mdash; Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) <a href="https://twitter.com/HPbasketball/status/554076312554328064">January 11, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Lowry is really good at basketball:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Great pass by Lowry underneath to JV. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/thisismetweetingniceraptorsthings?src=hash">#thisismetweetingniceraptorsthings</a></p>&mdash; Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) <a href="https://twitter.com/HPbasketball/status/554094003268751360">January 11, 2015</a></blockquote>
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An honest appraisal:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>OK, we’re done here. Great response from Toronto defensively after a miserable first quarter. The Celtics are awful.</p>&mdash; Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) <a href="https://twitter.com/HPbasketball/status/554097113638785024">January 11, 2015</a></blockquote>
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And he only got defensive once or twice:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/nextlevelfreshh">@nextlevelfreshh</a> I SAID NOTHING BUT NICE THINGS EXCEPT ABOUT THE INTERIOR DEFENSE TONIGHT</p>&mdash; Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) <a href="https://twitter.com/HPbasketball/status/554100863858245632">January 11, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Sorry the fans are giving you such a hard time, Matt!

Anyway, what did you guys think of the game?