Keys to the Game: Celtics 95, Raptors 94
Box Score Nuggets
Quote of the Night
How do the Celtics continue to pull it off? One word: defense.
Defense secured the team’s 12th straight win Sunday evening as the C’s held on to down Toronto 95-94. As the score may indicate, the contest came down to the wire, and Boston leaned on its defense to capture the victory.
DeMar DeRozan was forced into not only one missed shot, but two missed shots during the final 19.3 seconds of the game. Both shots would have given the Raptors a lead with minimal time remaining on the clock for the C’s to answer back.
The first miss was forced by Al Horford, who switched onto DeRozan on the right wing after Toronto’s top scorer ran a pick-and-roll with Serge Ibaka. Horford called for a switch all the way, then he stayed in front of DeRozan the rest of the way, until Toronto’s wing fired and missed his shot attempt from 19 feet out.
Jayson Tatum hauled in the rebound, seemingly putting the ice on Boston’s win. However, as he attempted to turn and take the ball up court, his elbow connected with Fred VanVleet’s face, drawing an offensive foul call from the referees.
That whistle arrived with 13.4 seconds left in the game, and it returned the ball to Toronto, giving the Raptors one more opportunity to win the game. This time, DeRozan’s primary defender, Jaylen Brown, forced the critical miss.
DeRozan faced up on Brown in an isolation situation on the right wing with slightly more than six seconds left in the game. DeRozan jabbed to his right, then took the ball off the dribble to his left for three steps before planting, spinning back over his left shoulder, and turning back to his right to fire up a jumper from the free-throw line. Not a single one of those moves shook Brown, who stayed in front of DeRozan throughout the entire play.
DeZoran let the ball fly and it fell softly off the front of the rim with 2.1 seconds left in the game. Horford, Tatum, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier were able to cause enough commotion on the rebound attempt to prevent any Toronto player from coming up with the ball, and Smart eventually wound up gaining possession as the final two seconds of the game ticked off the clock.
Horford immediately ran to Boston’s bench and high-fived Shane Larkin before chest-bumping Abdel Nader. Brown, meanwhile, approached Boston’s bench with his hands clenched and his body flexed as he screamed in celebration.
The celebration was well-deserved. Not only did Boston clinch its 12th straight victory, but it did so by forcing one of the league’s top isolation scoring threats into two critical misses in the clutch.
Defense, defense, defense.
Marcus Smart got his second start of the season Sunday afternoon and he sure made it count. The Celtics missed Kyrie Irving, but they would have missed him even more had Smart not been there to fill in for the four-time All-Star.
Smart played at a beautiful pace at the offensive end and made play after play for the C’s. He led the game with nine assists, and he shot the ball well from the key areas of the court en route to 14 points. Smart shot 2-for-5 from long range and connected on all six of his free throws on the afternoon.
Per usual, Smart also contributed in nearly every other area of the box score. He hauled in five rebounds, including the game-clincher with 2.0 seconds left on the clock, and he grabbed two steals to tie for the game-high mark.
No player on Boston’s roster finished with a better plus/minus rating than Smart’s plus-11. He was fantastic during his 32-plus minutes of action, and he helped the C’s overcome the absence of their star guard.
Box Score Nuggets
- DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 24 points.
- Boston won despite shooting only 40.2 percent from the field, 6.2 percent worse than Toronto.
- The C's attempted 18 more shots (87) than the Raptors (69).
- Both teams made 10 3-pointers.
- Al Horford led the C's with 21 points.
- Five Celtics committed two turnovers apiece during the win.
- No player grabbed more than eight rebounds in the game. Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis tied for the game's high mark with eight apiece.
- Terry Rozier scored 16 points off the bench for Boston.
- Marcus Smart led the game with nine assists.
- Both teams scored 18 points off of the opposition's turnovers.
- Both teams scored 24 points during the first quarter and 18 points during the fourth quarter.
- Jaylen Brown scored 18 points for the C's.
- Theis accounted for Boston of Boston's blocked shots.
- All of Boston's starters finished with a positive plus/minus rating, while all of its reserves finished with a negative plus/minus rating.
- CJ Miles led Toronto's reserves with 10 points.
- Kyle Lowry scored 19 points despite making only five shots. Four of his made field goals were 3-pointers, and he made five free throws.
Quote of the Night
You can cover up for a lot of sins when you play with a high motor.
Brad Stevens on what stood out to him about Daniel Theis during Sunday's game against Toronto.