Undermanned Boston Celtics win ninth straight, beat Raptors 106-104

TORONTO — The misery continues for the Toronto Raptors.

Jaylen Brown scored 27 points to lift the Boston Celtics to a 106-104 victory over the Raptors for their ninth consecutive victory.

Pascal Siakam had 29 points and 10 rebounds to top the Raptors (20-27), who lost their third straight, and third in a row to an undermanned team. Gary Trent Jr. had 22 points, while Precious Achiuwa finished with 17 points and 11 boards and Scottie Barnes had 10 points.

The East-leading Celtics (35-12) were missing leading scorer Jayson Tatum (left wrist).

The Raptors were also shorthanded, missing all-star guard Fred VanVleet, who was a late scratch with right rib soreness. O.G. Anunoby had 12 points before leaving the game three-and-a-half minutes into the fourth quarter after jamming his foot. The Raptors initially said he was available to return, but medical staff advised against it.

The Raptors' previous two losses came against short-handed teams: a 130-122 loss Tuesday to a Milwaukee squad minus superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, and then a 128-126 loss Thursday against a Timberwolves team that was missing Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, and had played at altitude in Denver a night earlier.

The Celtics also lost both Marcus Smart (right ankle sprain) and Robert Williams (hyperextended knee) in the first half Saturday. Smart, who had two points and four assists, rolled his ankle making a cut, and gestured immediately for medical help when he fell, pointing to his foot.

Other than an early 11-point lead for Toronto, the game was a tight back-and-forth battle. The Raptors opened the fourth quarter clutching a four-point lead, but Payton Pritchard's third three-pointer of the final frame opened up an eight-point gap for Boston with 5:53 to play.

The Scotiabank Arena crowd erupted when Trent's three-pointer, his second in a minute-and-a-half, tied the game at 103-103 with 2:23 to play. But Pritchard replied with his fourth long bomb to put Boston back on top. A Siakam free throw made it a two-point game and then, with the crowd on its feet, Trent missed a basket but stole the ball off Pritchard with 14.1 seconds left.

A frantic few final seconds saw Raptors coach Nick Nurse livid at a jump ball call with 8.6 seconds to play. Toronto gained possession with 3.1 seconds left, but Siakam turned the ball over to send the fans home unhappy.

Thad Young's hook shot capped a Raptors' 15-4 run that gave Toronto an 11-point lead with 2:30 left in the first quarter. But the Celtics replied with a 12-2 run to pull to within 27-26 heading into the second.

The see-sew second quarter saw the lead change hands eight times, before a 9-0 run by Toronto late in the half. The Raptors went into the halftime break up 57-50.

A pair of consecutive Brogdon three-pointers sliced Toronto's advantage to just a point with 2:04 left in the third quarter. The Raptors took an 85-81 lead into the fourth.

NO KOLOKO

The Raptors didn't have rookie forward Christian Koloko, who'd been assigned to their G League affiliate Raptors 905 for the first time.

"We're gonna try to get him down there, get him a lot more minutes, a lot more reps," Nurse said. "Hopefully they'll give him the ball some so he can get some attempts, get some confidence."

Koloko's 905 debut will be Sunday at the Wisconsin Herd.

"I would say (Koloko) is probably gonna jockey back and forth right now, but more leaning toward there, but with us when the schedule permits," Nurse said.

UP NEXT

The Raptors host Canadian R.J. Barrett and the New York Knicks on Sunday. The Raptors beat the Knicks in a 123-121 thriller on Monday in New York. The Raptors then head out on a season-long seven-game road trip, beginning Wednesday at Sacramento.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2023.

The Canadian Press