Rookie Harangody leads Celtics over Raptors

Posted Jan. 07, 2011, at 10:15 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 07, 2011, at 11:39 p.m.

BOSTON — As a rookie on a team as well-stocked as the Boston Celtics, Luke Harangody’s playing time has been sparse.

He finally got a chance Friday when coach Doc Rivers turned him loose, and Harangody shined with the best game of his young career in the short-handed Celtics’ 122-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

Harangody had career highs with 17 points and 11 rebounds for his first NBA double-double and added a pair of blocks, also more than he had ever done in 16 previous appearances. He played 26:42 — 10 minutes more than he ever had — and made 8-of-11 shots.

“On this team, you have to take a look around the locker room and realize who’s around,” Harangody said, understanding his limited playing time. “This was just one game. Nothing has changed. My role is always defensive and get a rebound.”

His role Friday was a little bit of everything as the Celtics earned the 3,000th victory in franchise history.

Harangody, a rookie from Notre Dame, had never played more than 16 minutes in a game. He got in early and had doubled his career high for points (four) by the end of the first quarter. His previous highs for rebounds was also four.

“He was great. He was phenomenal,” Rivers said. “He’ll make mistakes because he’s young. He’ll make mistakes because he’s going too fast. He’ll never make mistakes because he’s not playing hard.”

The Celtics maintained the best record in the Eastern Conference at 28-7 as they boarded a flight for Saturday’s game at Chicago.

Boston has gone 5-1 since star forward Kevin Garnett went out with a right calf injury. He could be back as early as next week, but until he’s ready Rivers saw Friday night he has another dependable reserve behind the Celtics’ All-Star starting lineup.

“I just thought his energy was fantastic,” Rivers said. “When he slows down, he can make shots. He’s an uncanny rebounder for his size.”

Paul Pierce scored 20 and Ray Allen added 17 for Boston, which tied a season high for points in a half with 67 in the first and never let the Raptors get closer than 12 in the second half.

“They don’t panic at all. They know what they’ve got to do if they get down,” said DeMar DeRozan, who led Toronto with 20 points. They know exactly what to do and that’s something we definitely could learn from a team like Boston.”

Toronto has lost four of five and seven of nine despite shooting well (40 for 79) on Friday. But the Celtics outscored the Raptors 54-44 in the paint and outrebounded them 43-31.

The Raptors got as close as 13 in the third and were down 87-73 after two foul shots by Amir Johnson before Harangody helped quickly rebuild Boston’s lead. Pierce made two free throws to put the Celtics up 89-73, then Harangody blocked a layup attempt by Ed Davis and rumbled back to the Celtics’ end to score on his own layup with 1:53 left in the third.

Andrea Bargnani got Toronto within 98-86, but that was as close as the Raptors would come. The Celtics scored the next 10 points during a 15-1 run that sealed the victory and a 3-1 win for the Celtics in the season series.

Allen started it with a 3-pointer, Harangody hit an 18-footer and Nate Robinson took a steal in for a layup to put Boston ahead 109-86. Harangody showed some agility a few minutes later when he drove under the basket and banked in a reverse layup to put Boston up 113-87.

Fans reveled in the rookie’s career night and chanted “Luuuuke!” throughout the game.

Notes: All five Toronto starters scored in double figures. Linas Kleiza and Bargnani had 17 apiece. Jose Calderon scored 11 and Johnson added 10. … Friday’s win gave Rivers 308 with the Celtics, tying him with K.C. Jones for third on the franchise list — still a long way from Red Auerbach’s 795. … The Celtics also scored 67 points in the second half of their victory over the New York Knicks on Dec. 15.

76ers 105, Bulls 99

PHILADELPHIA — Jodie Meeks scored 24 points, Lou Williams had 20, and the Philadelphia 76ers avenged a 45-point loss to Chicago with a 105-99 victory over the Bulls on Friday night.

Jrue Holiday added 19 for the 76ers, who lost 121-76 on Dec. 21 in Chicago.

The Sixers believe they’re a playoff team and have the young nucleus to get there. Meeks and Holiday gave them plenty of reason for hope in a thrilling third quarter where the two guards combined to shoot 7 for 7 for 18 points.

The Sixers hit their first nine shots in the third and 11 overall to turn a four-point hole into a 12-point lead.

Holiday sizzled, drawing a foul on Derrick Rose on a driving layup for a three-point play that gave the Sixers the lead. Meeks busted out of a big slump with consecutive 3-pointers, the second off Holiday’s steal, that built it to 82-70.

The Sixers needed that cushion in the fourth.

The Bulls closed within five late in the quarter, then Holiday threw a blind pass into the hands of Kyle Korver. Rose made two free throws that cut it to 102-99.

Andres Nocioni, forced out of the first half with a finger injury, grabbed a key defensive rebound and hit two free throws for a 104-99 lead and the Sixers held on for the victory.

Carlos Boozer shook off a fourth-quarter benching against New Jersey to lead the Bulls with 31 points. Rose had 27 and Luol Deng 22.

After the Bulls, the Sixers start a stretch where they can pad their record against sub.-500 teams. A schedule that has Detroit, Indiana, Milwaukee and Charlotte before a Jan. 19 game at Orlando is a prime opportunity for the Sixers to climb back toward .500 and prove they are legitimate playoff contenders.

The Sixers need to fit Andre Iguodala back into the mix when he returns next week. Iguodala missed his sixth straight games with Achilles’ tendinitis.

The Bulls and Sixers were taking and making shots like a playground pickup game from the opening tip. Williams provided a fitting end to a wild half when he buried a 3 at the buzzer to cut the Bulls’ lead to 56-54 at the break.

The long shot sparked the Sixers. Elton Brand, healthy and revitalized after two dismal seasons in Philadelphia, started the can’t-miss fun with a 15-footer. They hit pull-up jumpers and finger rolls to slice Chicago’s lead.

Holiday electrified a solid crowd with his three-point play on Rose, then hit a 19-footer to make the Sixers 8 for 8 in the quarter and give them a 71-66 lead.

Sixers coach Doug Collins raved about the 20-year-old Holiday in the preseason and predicted he’d be one of the top-five point guards in the league next season.

Too soon to move up that timetable?

Holiday has scored 20-plus in five of the last seven games and has often been Philadelphia’s best player on the court. When Meeks is on his game, the two form a potent backcourt.

Meeks — who began the season with a string of DNP-CDs — has started the last 18 games and played one of the best games of his career. When Holiday forced a turnover late in the third, he fed the ball to Meeks for a 3 and a nine-point lead.

Meeks capped a 32-point quarter for the Sixers with a little runner for a 12-point lead. The Sixers shot 78 percent (14 for 18 overall; 3 of 4 3s) in the third.

Hard to believe these two teams played some a lopsided game last month. The Bulls led 61-43 at halftime of that one. When they hit 62 points in the third on Friday, the Bulls only led by four.

“I watched the tape and I didn’t recognize our team,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said before Friday’s game. “I’m hoping tonight is going to be a lot better.”

He got his wish.

NOTES: 76ers C Tony Battie was inactive and will miss Saturday’s game at Detroit with right rotator cuff tendinitis. … Bulls assistant coach Rick Brunson was announced as part of the Big 5 Hall of Fame’s 2011 class. Brunson played for Temple from 1991-95 and ranks fifth on the school’s career list in assists (470). … Bulls assistant coach Ed Pinckney, who led Villanova to the 1985 national championship, said he’d still be calling 76ers games if not for a chance meeting with coach Tom Thibodeau. Pinckney said he now wants to be a head coach in the NBA or at the collegiate level.

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