The Celtics got off to a slow start in The 6, opening the game with five three-point attempts... and five misses. Jayson Tatum steadied the ship with a couple of buckets in the paint, while Jrue Holiday got it going early from deep with a pair of triples just five minutes into the contest.
Sam Hauser checked into the game halfway through the quarter and picked up right where he left off as one of the hottest deep-ball threats in the league. The three-point specialist was relocating effectively and he was rewarded with a pair of triples in the first.
Derrick White strung together a couple of productive possessions running the offense, setting up Jaylen Brown via a nice ATO design and finding Al Horford with a crafty lob driving downhill. Kristaps Porzingis was making strong reads out of the post and the stat-sheet reflected that, as he racked up four first-quarter assists.
After declaring his goal was to make an All-Defensive team, Brown showed a little bit of his defensive potential with a monstrous block on former Celtic Dennis Schroder.
Gary Trent Jr. had the hot hand for Toronto, appearing to shake off an early ankle injury with nine first-quarter points. Pascal Siakam continued his recent trend of producing against Boston, pouring in eight points in the opening quarter himself.
Despite the few individual positives for the Cs, the larger picture was Boston’s glaring struggles from three. The team shot 5-17 (29.4%) from beyond the arc, while the Raptors took a much more paint-centric approach, hitting 56% of their field goal attempts.
Boston really put the pedal to the floor in the second quarter, outscoring the Raptors 37-19. Hauser stayed hot, hitting his third three of the night and also getting a rare dunk off a nice cut that left him wide open running down the lane.
Holiday’s fingerprints were all over Boston’s run to take back the lead early in the second. The versatile guard picked his spots effectively, working in the post and mid-range. Porzingis continued to find himself in mismatch situations at the free throw line, picking apart the Raptors with a combination of bully ball, shooting over his defender and solid passes.
Payton Pritchard brought a ton of energy during his time on both ends of the floor. The shifty guard made a multitude of great reads in transition and was +11 when he checked out with just under five minutes to go in the first half.
The Brown/Porzingis pick-and-roll claimed another victim in the form of a Scotiabank Arena rim due to a vicious alley-oop. That duo has established a clear rapport and may be Boston’s most potent two-man combination so far this year.
After struggling early on offensively (0-5 from three to open the game), Tatum strung together a few buckets to make his presence felt. The MVP candidate suddenly led his squad in scoring heading into the break with 13 points, which included this beautiful buzzer-beater three to wrap up the first half.
The Raptors came out firing in the second half and the Celtics failed to match their energy. A big run halfway through the third brought the Raptors all the way back to tie the game. In typical Joe Mazzulla fashion, the young head coach refused to bail out his players with a timeout until 3:32 remained in the penultimate quarter.
The two teams traded baskets for the most part for the remainder of the third, and Boston led 84-81 with 12 minutes left to play.
Toronto entered this matchup as one of the best fourth-quarter teams in the NBA this season, and they backed that up with an early 7-0 run to take the lead. Boston’s lack of defensive pressure on the ball-handler out of pick-and-rolls hurt them on multiple occasions, including this soaring dunk by Scottie Barnes:
Al Horford has been immensely clutch when called upon so far this year, and that continued early in the fourth. After Toronto briefly took the lead, the veteran hit back-to-back threes to put Boston back in front.
Back to back 3's to start the 4th pic.twitter.com/gQ5UGS9vmm— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 18, 2023
Porzingis’ presence as a rim protector has been significant for Boston early on in his Celtics tenure, and that was the case once again Friday as the big man racked up three blocks on the night.
Tied 97-97 with fewer than four minutes to go, the Cs found themselves in a familiar tight late-game situation. This time, their superstar simply didn’t have it, as Tatum missed multiple open threes that he typically buries.
Luckily, this team has quite a few talented players besides Jayson Tatum.
Brown and Porzingis carried the load offensively down the stretch. Boston finally got a stop with 40 seconds left, and the “other guys” showed up once again. Jrue Holiday made a fantastic pass out of the post right into Derrick White’s shooting pocket, and the most valuable “role player” in the NBA buried the game-winning three.
Whenever White is called upon, the guard delivers, and that was the case once again Friday night as Boston escaped Toronto with the 108-105 win over a scrappy Raptors squad. Brown led the way with 23 points, while the rest of the starters outside of Tatum delivered strong performances as well. The bench also showed up, as Pritchard and Hauser contributed with 11 points each.
One thing to monitor is the status of Brown, who slipped and appeared to tweak something with less than a minute remaining in the game. More updates will be provided as news comes in.
Next up, the Celtics fly to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies, who will be without old friend Marcus Smart due to an ankle injury. Boston will look to keep the positive momentum rolling against Desmond Bane and company at 8:00 EST Sunday in FedExForum.