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Boston Celtics withstand tough effort from Toronto Raptors, win 116-110

Boston Celtics withstand tough effort from Toronto Raptors, win 116-110

Playing on the road, without three key rotation players, on the second night of a back-to-back, everything about Monday nightโ€™s matchup against the Toronto Raptors had the feel of a schedule loss for the Boston Celtics. Instead, the Celtics picked up their league-leading 20th win of the season in particularly gutty fashion, shrugging off a customarily tough effort from the Raptors to score a 116-110 win.

Jayson Tatum led the way with a 31-point, 12-rebound night, while Jaylen Brown (22 points) tacked on some big plays down the stretch to help the Celtics surge ahead in the second half. For the Raptors, Pascal Siakam scored 29 points (9-of-13 from the free throw line) while Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. added 21 and 20 points, respectively.

No matchup against the Nick Nurse-led Raptors ever comes easy, and this was no exception. Playing on the second half of a back-to-back without the services of Al Horford (back) and Malcolm Brogdon (illness), this was always destined to be a bit of a rock fight, and that bore out in the first quarter. Sloppy play ruled the early minutes, as neither team looked all that energized, and the Celtics entered the second quarter leading by just two, 27-25.

Notable early: VERY poor free throw shooting. Both teams opened up the game connecting on just one of their first four freebies in the opening quarter, including scoreless trips to the line from Marcus Smart and Scottie Barnes.

As the second quarter progressed, it became apparent that the Raptors were the team with fresher legs. Much of the quarter belonged to Toronto, as they pushed ahead by as many as 10 points. The Celticsโ€™ shooting certainly helped them along; after connecting on four triples in the first quarter, the Celtics missed their first six attempts in the second before Smart finally found paydirt with just over two minutes to play in the half. Tatum followed with a three of his own moments later, and the Celtics managed to stem the bleeding for the moment, trailing by just six points at the halftime break, 62-56.

The Celtics asserted themselves as play commenced in the second half, kicking off the third quarter with a 17-5 run to put themselves back in the driverโ€™s seat on the scoreboard. It was a gritty quarter from Tatum in particular, as he dug deep and came up with some desperately needed buckets to spark the Boston offense. He scored 17 of his 31 points on the evening in the third quarter, and the Celtics thoroughly manhandled the Raptors as…

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