If Friday night is any indication, the race for Eastern Conference supremacy this season could be very interesting.
In a back-and-forth affair between Atlantic Division rivals, the Toronto Raptors used a strong second half to push past the Boston Celtics 113-101 at Scotiabank Arena.
Although the Celtics featured five scorers in double figures, led by Kyrie Irving’s 21 points, the Raptors hung tough late in the game to earn the win. Kawhi Leonard turned in a game-high 31 points to go along with 10 rebounds, while Serge Ibaka impressed with 21 points.
With the loss, the Celtics fall to 1-1, while the Raptors improve to 2-0.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Gordon Hayward
C: Al Horford
The Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers went back-and-forth with some sloppy play Tuesday, and it was much of the same for Boston against Toronto on Friday. The two teams combined for 11 turnovers in the opening frame, but the C’s 9-1 run to close the quarter allowed the visitors to take a 25-18 lead into the second quarter. Horford led the way for the green with six points and three rebounds, while Tatum wasn’t far behind with five points and three boards. Both teams struggled mightily from deep as well, combining for a 6-for-24 mark on 3-pointers.
NOW THAT’S BETTER
Both teams were much sharper in the second quarter, but Boston’s 52 percent mark from the field allowed it to take a 53-49 lead into the break. The C’s were particularly in sync in the closing minutes of the frame, connecting on five of their final six shots, including a trio of 3-pointers. Boston did a good job distributing the ball in the first half, as seven players logged five points or more, with Tatum’s and Irving’s nine spots serving as the team highs. Ibaka led all scorers at halftime with 13 points.
It only was a matter of time before Leonard got into a groove. After being limited to nine first-half points, the star forward erupted for 15 in the third to help Toronto take an 82-79 lead into the final quarter. To put it in perspective, all other Raptors combined to score 18 points in the frame.
Brad Stevens made a noteworthy lineup change heading into the second half, as the Celtics coach opted to start Marcus Morris over Hayward. Hayward ended up providing a boost in the tail end of the quarter, though, scoring five points in the final minutes. Irving paced Boston in the third with six points.
RAPTORS HANG ON
Toronto didn’t rest on its laurels heading into the fourth quarter with a lead, as it kept its foot on the gas en route to an impressive win. Irving and Horford helped keep things interesting by combining for 11 points in the final frame, but the Raptors’ efficiency down the stretch effectively put the nail in the visitors’ coffin.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Some razzle dazzle from Fred VanVleet.
The Celtics return to action Saturday night against the New York Knicks. Tip-off from Madison Square Garden is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports
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