BOSTON – Dagger after dagger, Kyle Lowry relished the opportunity to remind his opponent who the best point guard in the East is.
The Celtics were in the driver’s seat most of the first half, but Lowry took the wheel in the third quarter, as his 14 points led a 23-8 Raptors run to take a 7-point lead. They would not relinquish it, as they came out of the second night of a back-to-back with a 101-94 win over the Celtics.
Lowry scored 34 points (12 for 13 from the line) along with 7 rebounds.
“Kyle Lowry was terrific. Kyle was…he is who he is,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
The Raptors’ dynamic trio of Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Norman Powell all hit the 20-point mark, but the Celtics’ franchise record-tying 17 threes kept them within striking distance. Seventeen of the Celtics’ 31 field goals came from downtown, as they couldn’t do any damage down low or in transition.
Although the Celtics held Jonas Valanciunas to just 6 points, the Raptors nearly doubled up the Celtics in the paint with a 38 to 22 advantage.
“It was hard for us to break their wall of defense,” Stevens said. “It was hard for us to handle that pressure and when we drove, they collapsed and used their athleticism to collapse us in the paint. Their defense was fanstatic in the third quarter.”
But the Raps’ wings kept taking turns to brunt the scoring load. It was Lowry in the third, then Powell in the early fourth. When the Celtics crept back in late, DeRozan went to work in iso. However, when Toronto started clearing out for DeRozan on the wing, Marcus Smart forced some crucial misses. He even hit an elbow three to make it a two-possession game.
When Al Horford forced Kyle Lowry to miss from three with 30 seconds left, he landed under Lowry and was accurately called for the foul. Lowry hit all three free throws as the Raptors narrowly escaped Boston with the win. Horford would get a three-point play on the other end, but it was too little, too late.
When CelticsBlog asked Horford what the ref told him after the foul call, Horford said, “I don’t even know. I was so pissed off, I didn’t even hear him.”
It was a frustrating night overall for the Celtics, who could not hurdle the great defensive wall of Canada.