Saturday, December 30, 2023

Celtics 120, Raptors 118: Jaylen Brown returns to lead under-manned Boston, remain unbeaten at home

The short-handed Celtics held on to beat the Toronto Raptors 120-118 after giving up a 20-point lead Friday night at TD Garden.

Jaylen Brown, who returned from a one-game absence, led all scorers with 31 points on 11-of-16 from the field, including 5-of-6 from deep to go along with 10 rebounds and six assists. Derrick White added 21 points, seven assists and Jrue Holiday chipped in 15 points, nine assists for the C's, as they remain a perfect 16-0 at home and are 25-6 overall -- both a league-best.
"It's the NBA. Each night is different with different guys in the lineup," White said in his postgame comments. "The more ways we can find to win, the better it will make us in the long run."
Luke Kornet played in his first game since December 4, making his first start of the season in place of Kristaps Porzingis (calf) to finish with 20 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Boston winners of five-straight and 10 over the last 11, was also without Jayson Tatum (ankle) and Al Horford (rest) on a second night of a back-to-back.
"I said to the locker room before the game that it was another opportunity. I didn't care who we were playing against. I have complete trust and confidence in the character of our locker room because of who they are. I think we can win any game no matter what," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. "Luke shows up every game and plays his role. It was awesome to watch him play at the level that he did."
Scottie Barnes was 7-of-15 from 3-point range and netted 30 points, while grabbing 10 rebounds and handed out five assists. Pascal Siakam had 27 points and Dennis Schröder registered 15 points, nine assists off the bench for the Raptors -- who dropped to 12-19 on the season.

The Celtics jumped to a 35-20 start after the first quarter, behind 15 points from Brown (three straight made 3-pointers) to open the game and took a 68-53 advantage into halftime.

Boston led by as many as 20 in the third quarter and were ahead 99-86 heading into the final frame, before the Raptors used a 16-3 run to take their first lead (104-102) since the first period on a Schröder 3-pointer with 8:18 left to play.

Down the stretch in a back and forth that featured three ties and four lead changes, Barnes hit a long ball to that tied the game at 116 with 47.1 seconds remaining. Brown found Kornet for an alley-oop on the ensuing play that kept the Celtics in front for good.

With Boston up 119-117 after Holiday split a pair of free throws, Barnes missed a driving layup and Holiday once again went 1-of-2 from the charity stripe. Toronto trailed 120-117 when a review of a replay determined there was a foul before the final buzzer sounded, but Siakam missed the second free-bee after knocking down the first one from the free throw line.

The Celtics head back out on the road when they face the San Antonio Spurs (5-26) New Year's Eve.

Game Notes:

Boston hit 48.9% from the field, including going 17-of-39 (43.6%) from long distance, while the Raptors were 46.3% from the floor and 17-of-44 (38.6%) from 3-point range. The Celtics won the battle of the boards 52-38 and points in the paint 52-48. The C's had 29 assists (16 turnovers) on 43 baskets and Toronto also dished out 29 dimes (five turnovers) on 44 made shots. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of USA Today

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