The 2022-23 NBA season inched ever closer this Wednesday evening, as the Boston Celtics took the court for their second preseason game of the new campaign, this time hosting the Toronto Raptors at home at the TD Garden. But while the final result — a 125-119 overtime win by the Raptors — might not look ideal, the Celtics walked away with their second consecutive impressive preseason performance. They held the Raptors at arm’s length, maintaining a double-digit lead while the starters remained in the night’s rotation, and it wasn’t until the deep bench took the court that Toronto was able to turn the night’s proceedings around.
Jaylen Brown was the hot hand yet again, leading all scorers with 23 points in just 27 minutes of action, while Jayson Tatum added a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Newcomer Malcolm Brogdon continued to look like a seamless fit on Boston’s second unit, dishing out nine assists in 23 minutes, while youngster Sam Hauser cashed in on five of his eight three-point attempts. The Raptors, meanwhile, featured a balanced offensive attack, with 12 players recording multiple made shots, but weren’t able to keep the Boston lead within single-digits while the primary rotation players were still on the court.
Two days after a near-immaculate 134-93 preseason win over the Hornets, the Celtics’ second outing of the 2022 Preseason looked much more the part of an exhibition game. Both teams came out of the gates looking far out of rhythm, with the score sitting at just 8-6 in favor of the Raptors more than halfway through the opening quarter. Few shots even seemed particularly close, especially from behind the arc, where the competitors combined to shoot just 2-for-14 before Sam Hauser connected on a buzzer-beating three-pointer off the feed from Malcolm Brogdon.
The Brogdon-Hauser connection at the end of the first quarter finally woke the Celtics up. Their absent shooting made a triumphant arrival, as the Hauser threes began to multiply and the Celtics surged ahead by double-digits in the process. The defense did its part, too, with Boston’s active switching scheme flustering Toronto’s half-court offense to the tune of 38% shooting in the first half. Led by 33 points combined between Tatum and Brown, the Celtics entered the halftime break with a 16-point lead, 62-46.
As play resumed in the second half, the third quarter very much resembled the second. The Celtics opened the quarter running their normal rotation, and looked comfortable and assertive throughout. With the lead continuing to hover in the vicinity of 20 as the clock ticked down in the third, the game shifted towards the other focus of preseason basketball: lineup experimentation. Interim coach Joe Mazzulla found the opportunity to toy around with an unusual lineup combination featuring Grant Williams at center as the clock ticked down on the third quarter, and the Celtics entered the final frame with a 90-72 advantage.
Experimentation during games has its risks, of course, and as the final quarter kicked off, the Celtics’ uber-small lineup gave up a 13-3 Raptors run to cut their lead back down into the single-digits — a situation where, in a game that counted, the starters might have returned to restore order. This is preseason, however, and the Celtics instead dug further into the bench to ride out the remaining minutes of regulation. The Toronto run continued to balloon, with the Raptors going so far as to reclaim a 108-106 lead with just 1:30 remaining in regulation, and with the Celtics clutching to just a two-point lead as time expired, Toronto’s Jeff Dowtin tied the game at 110 to force an elusive preseason overtime period.
And so we commenced with overtime preseason basketball, which quickly proved to be a Raptors-dominated affair. The two teams traded buckets for the opening possessions of the extra period, but a Khem Birch three-pointer and D.J. Wilson two-pointer opened up a seven-point Toronto advantage with just one minute to play. Payton Pritchard connected on a deep three-pointer to bring the Celtics back within four, but the Celtics couldn’t capitalize further, and finally walked away with the loss.
Next up, the Celtics will continue to fine-tune the gameplan as the preseason passes its halfway mark, as they hit the road for a rematch against the Charlotte Hornets this Friday, October 7 at 7:30 PM EST on NBC Sports Boston.
For more postgame coverage of Boston’s second strong preseason performance, tune into the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown.