Without Jayson Tatum and then Marcus Smart and Robert Williams in the second half, the Celtics gutted out a win north of their border, beating the Raptors 106-104 for their ninth straight win.
Toronto’s 20-27 record is marked by poor shooting; they’re 28th in the league at three-point shooting percentage (and were without Fred Van Vleet) and subsequently, only average 23.1 assists per game. However, the Raptors are big across the board with Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes filling out their wing rotation. The Raptors outscored the Celtics in the paint 54-to-36 and blocked 10 shots.
The Raptors’ weaknesses, however, are the Celtics’ strengths. Boston hit 16-of-35 from behind the arc. Payton Pritchard played the entire fourth quarter and hit all four of his three-pointers.
THAT NEXT MAN UP MENTALITY pic.twitter.com/79cNFR1TVh— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 22, 2023
With Boston down three key rotation players, several role players from the second unit stepped up. Grant Williams scored 18 points in the first half including 3-of-5 from behind the arc and finished with a career-high 25 points with five rebounds. Malcolm Brogdon continued his streak of strong play with 23 points on an efficient 8-of-16 shooting. Jaylen Brown lead the team in scoring with 27 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.
The final seconds, not unlike Thursday night’s classic against the Warriors, were defined by Al Horford. With the Celtics nursing a two-point lead, the 36-year-old defended two drives by Gary Trent Jr. and Siakam, the latter leading to a jump ball. After winning the toss up, Horford locked up Barnes for another jump which he won vs. a player fifteen years his junior. In the closing seconds, it was Horford again sealing the win with a steal at midcourt.
wondering if there has ever been a swifter exit in NBA history than Al leaving this game tonight pic.twitter.com/5mcOMAqEID— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 22, 2023
What might be the bigger story moving forward are the losses of Marcus Smart and Robert Williams. After fighting for a defensive rebound, Jaylen Brown fell backward into Time Lord’s knee. Williams stayed in the game and played 15+ minutes in the first half, but was ruled out at halftime.
The more pressing concern is Smart. In the closing minutes of the second quarter, Smart was curling around an Al Horford screen, slipped, and turned his right ankle. He crumpled to the floor and stayed down for several minutes before two Celtics personnel helped him to the locker room, putting little weight on his right leg.
The Celtics now travel south to Florida to finish off season series against the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat in a back-to-back Monday and Tuesday night before returning home for a five-game homestand.