Another day, another show by Isaiah Thomas who led the Celtics with 44 in a hard fought match with the Atlantic division rival Toronto Raptors in a 109-104 win at the TD Garden. Thomas scored 19 in the final frame and there is not much more that can be said about how hot this guy is right now. Lowry paced Toronto with 32 points as they fall 1.5 games behind Boston in the Eastern Conference. Boston improves to 1-2 vs. the Raptors this season.
Before the tip:
Both teams entered the game without their preferred shooting guards, Avery Bradley and Demar Derozan, who were out with injuries. Celtics led the Raptors by half a game in the standings, 2nd in the East, 1st in the Atlantic Division. Toronto won an overtime battle with the Pelicans the previous night.
The starting unit of Horford, Johnson, Crowder, Brown, and Thomas began the game slowly, falling 7-0 early. The group was 2-11 before Coach Brad Stevens' first substitutions midway through the quarter. 3 straight trips to the line for IT followed by a tough contested layup helped the C's keep pace with the visitors, and it was clear Thomas planned on being aggressive from the get-go. Gerald Green got an early nod and fired away, drilling a three on his first attempt. It was contagious as consecutive 3's were made by Smart, IT (and-one), Jerebko, and another from Thomas DEEP before the buzzer! Toronto led at the end of the first 30-28 behind 7 points from a familiar face, Jared Sullinger.
Heels on the logo! pic.twitter.com/MEnf3j3xJL— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 2, 2017
Loud scoffs and groans coming from color commentator and Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn continued throughout the half due to the team's lackluster rebounding. Outside of the 3-point barrage to end the first quarter, the poor shooting trend carried on. A Kyle Lowry 3-pointer increased the Raptors lead to 45-32 and forced a Stevens timeout. The team responded with a 7-0 run after inserting IT back into the lineup, assisting on a couple of baskets including Amir Johnson's patented 5-second release outside jumper. The two teams traded buckets the rest of the half and finished with Toronto leading 62-51 at the break. Thomas led all scorers with 20 points and 6 assists. Horford contributed 2 points on 1-9 shooting, 0-4 from outside.
Sloppy play to begin the second half led to a 72-55 Toronto lead. Following another timeout from Stevens, the C's came out more aggressive on defense and were able to cut the deficit to 10 over the following 3 minutes. It was the first sign the away team seemed uncomfortable offensively all night. Boston still couldn't seem to capitalize with their own offensive issues getting in the way. The bench unit was able to catch a spark and close the gap to just 8 points behind a Terry Rozier triple.
Marcus Smart started the scoring off with a tough coast-to-coast layup in transition to bring the crowd off their feet. Smart seemed to be everywhere early in the quarter, dishing in the pick and roll and taking charges at the other end. The energy carried over to the rest of the squad as a big Zeller block led to a transition dunk attempt by Jaylen Brown. Brown was fouled by Lowry and apparently didn't appreciate the contact as both teams got into a bit of a scuffle. Double technicals by Rozier and Demarre Carroll followed by a couple made free throws were the results of the play.
On the next possession, Tyler Zeller threw a perfect pass for an alley-oop to the high-flying rookie.
This is what happens when you make Jaylen Brown mad. pic.twitter.com/UGbzbj72Ki— Taylor C. Snow (@taylorcsnow) February 2, 2017
Lowry matched with a long-range 3 that Thomas followed with a tough layup and everyone knew we were in store for an entertaining finish with 6 minutes to go. The King of the Fourth went on a 9-0 run to give the Celtics their first lead of the night with at 95-94 with 4:38 to play. Lowry and Thomas continued to trade baskets along with a timely three from Horford who had struggled shooting all night. Isaiah Thomas hit some clutch baskets including two free throws that extended the lead to 105-101 with 10 seconds to go. Not to go underappreciated was Smart who hustled on the offensive glass to force a jump ball, tipping it to Isaiah who was immediately fouled. The Raptors made it interesting after a Patrick Patterson triple but it wasn't enough as the Celtics finished perfect at the line.
Photo credit: Celtics.com
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