Saturday night would see Boston suiting up for the second game of a back-to-back at TD Garden against the undermanned Toronto Raptors who were still smarting from a home Christmas day defeat at the hands of the Celtics a few days earlier.
As the game opened Kyle Lowry was cooking early, hitting on consecutive triples as the Raptors took an early lead. Boston started off sluggish on the defensive end and struggled with the pace of Toronto who got out and ran the floor hard. The Cs also shot themselves in the foot missing on 2-8 FT attempts whilst Toronto blistered the nets shooting 71% from the field and held onto a 36-25 lead after one quarter.
With Marcus Smart returning to action in the Kelly Green after missing eight games with an eye infection, the Cs would see a full compliment of wing players for the first time in what seems like forever. Smart returned off the bench to a standing ovation fitting the true Celtics warrior he is.
Serge Ibaka was nuisance early in this one bullying into the low block and laying down crafty hooks. As Enes Kanter entered the game he provided a solid challenge to the Toronto big man as both guys went inside during nice stretch in the second quarter. Boston would see good first half minutes from Kanter and Smart as they contributed a combined 15 points to help the Celtics get back into the game to within 3 points.
One thing about teams coached by Nick Nurse is they are well organised, aggressive and play hard. Toronto would see some good minutes from role players like Chris Boucher and Patrick McCaw as the Raptors extended the lead back out to double digits. With the second half coming to a close, Brad Stevens inserted his closing lineup of the wings, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart as that unit would cut the deficit to 5 points.
As they did in the first half, the Raptors sensed a Celtics run and hit back with big time buckets to hold Boston at arms length. With the free flowing buckets dried up for Boston they would need to scrap to get back into the game and win the 50-50 balls.
In a game of runs, Toronto battled at every turn as guys like Fred VanVleet in the third quarter would exploit mismatches keep his dribble alive and create baskets for his team. Kemba Walker had a big game shouldering the scoring load for the Celtics logging 30 points whilst the rest of the team spluttered shooting just 24% from three and 41% from the field.
With plenty of second chance points for Toronto and mostly poor performances across the board for the Celtics, this one got out of hand in the second half: Gordon Hayward (1-7 from three) Jayson Tatum (6 turnovers) and Marcus Smart (1-5 from three). Boston now have a few days off to regroup before travelling to Charlotte for a New Years Eve clash.