Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics will unofficially kick off the 2011-12 season as they face the Toronto Raptors in the preseason opener for both teams at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday afternoon in Toronto, Ontario (TV/Radio: CSNNE/WEEI).
Boston will meet Toronto twice in the preseason, with the second and final meeting coming at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday night at TD Garden. The Celtics and Raptors met four times last season, with the C's winning three times.
Led by Andrea Bargnani's 29 points and two game-clinching free-throws from Amir Johnson, the Raptors defeated the Celtics, 102-101, in the first meeting between the two teams last season on November 21 at the Air Canada Center. Paul Pierce's last-second chance bounced off the rim, snapping Toronto's eight-game winning streak against Boston.
The C's proceeded to win the final three meetings of the season, besting the Raptors 110-101 on Nov. 26, 93-79 on Jan. 2 and 122-102 on Jan. 7. Boston averaged 106.5 points in four games against Toronto, which averaged 96 points.
Paul Pierce will not start or play for the C's on Sunday, as he continues to recover from a bruised right heel suffered during practice at training camp. Boston will also be without Jeff Green, who will miss the entire 2011-12 season after doctors discovered an aortic aneurysm that will require heart surgery to correct.
Boston will likely start Rondo, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal and Marquis Daniels in place of Pierce. Boston is coming off of a 56-26 season in which it defeated the New York Knicks in the opening round of the playoffs before falling to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the next round. Pierce led the team in scoring last season, averaging 18.9 points, and Rajon Rondo (10.6 PPG) led the team with 11.2 assists (second in NBA) and 2.3 steals per game.
Toronto finished 22-60 and was 5-11 against Eastern Conference Atlantic Division opponents last season. Bargnani was the team's leading scorer (21.4 PPG) and Jose Calderon averaged 8.9 assists and 1.2 steals for the Raptors.