Celtics Defeat Raptors 112-106
After a disappointing showing in the season opener, the Celtics bounced back to defeat the defending champion Toronto Raptors at TD Garden.
The Raptors traveled to Boston after an overtime victory against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday. Many believed the now Kawhi-less Raptors would not pose much threat in the Eastern Conference. However, the defending NBA champions will not go down without a fight thanks to veteran point guard Kyle Lowry and rising superstar Pascal Siakam.
The Celtics looked to add their first game in the win column after losing to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night. Friday's contest with the Raptors was the first game for the green in the newly renovated TD Garden. Prior to tip-off, Kemba Walker addressed the crowd with a message for Celtics fans:
From tip-off, it was clear this game was going to be a grind for the Green Team. The Celtics began the game with many of the same struggles they had in Philadelphia: poor shooting and missed defensive rotations. Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker began the game a combined 5-22 from the floor, and the team as a whole shot just 2-13 from three. Jaylen Brown was the lone bright spot in the first half, finishing 6-10 from the floor with 13 points. Additionally, centers Daniel Theis and Robert Williams III struggled defensively. Despite this, the Celtics clung to a 50-49 lead going into half time.
Much like last season, the third quarter proved to be a problem for the Celtics. The Raptors scored 33 points in the 3rd quarter behind a barrage of three pointers (7-10) and stellar play from Siakam. As the Celtics pushed to cut into Toronto's lead in the 3rd quarter, it seemed like Lowry and Siakam were able to counter ever punch the Celtics threw. At the end of the third, the Raptors held a three point lead 82-79.
The fourth quarter changed everything. The Celtics fell down seven points as Siakam continued to punish the Celtics defense. However, after starting the game with an abysmal shooting line of 1-9 (11%) from the floor, Walker single-handedly took over for a stretch in the fourth quarter that brought life back to the Celtics:
Walker's onslaught cut the lead to one. At this point, the TD Garden was showering Walker with cheers so loud that it was drowning out the broadcast team on television. As the crowd took over to give the Celtics an extra push, Jaylen Brown made the play of the game to take back the lead:
After a minor back-and-forth, the Celtics took the lead for good and were able to stave off a final push from the Raptors to complete their first win of the season 112-106.
By the Numbers
The Celtics finished the game shooting 42-109 (38.5%), which is an improvement from the 36% they shot against Philadelphia. Toronto shot 37-78 (47.4%). The Celtics struggles from three point land continued as they shot 13-38 (34.2%) as a team to Toronto's 18-36 (50.0%). The Celtics were able to take 31 more shots than the Raptors in large part due to 21 offensive rebounds and 23 forced turnovers. In contrast, the Raptors had five offensive rebounds and forced only nine turnovers.
On a positive note, the Celtics shot 15-16 (93.8%) from the free throw line after their embarrassing showing from the line on Wednesday night. Toronto finished 14-17 (82.4%) from the line.
Jaylen Brown finished the game with 25 points on 11-20 (55%) shooting with nine rebounds and four assists. Jayson Tatum finished with an identical stat line (25-9-4) on 8-22 (36.4%) shooting. Kemba Walker finished with 22 points on 8-22 (36.4%) shooting with six rebounds and two assists. Gordon Hayward finished with 15 points on 5-12 (41.7%) shooting with eight rebounds and two assists.
Unsung Hero of the Game
Although limited in the box score, Celtics rookie Grant Williams played a major role in the team's victory. Williams saw minutes sparingly in the first half, but in the third and fourth quarter he was brought in as a substitution for Robert Williams III. Grant Williams, an undersized power forward out of Tennessee, took over at the center position. Williams was able to draw an offensive foul, grab a critical offensive rebound leading to an assist for a Jayson Tatum 3 pointer, and initiated multiple double teams forcing Toronto turnovers. After the game, Tatum credited Williams for giving the team the spark they needed it off the bench in the second half.
The Celtics have a quick turnaround and will travel to Madison Square Garden to face the 0-2 New York Knicks tonight at 7:30 pm.