Celtics pull away in fourth quarter in 109-97 win over Raptors

Following back-to-back losses to fall to just .500, Boston was in need of a get-right win over a struggling Raptors team.

In the Scotiabank Arena, the Celtics relied on a season-high 10 assists from Jayson Tatum, a team-high 21 points from Marcus Smart and solid scoring performances from both Grant Williams (15) and Josh Richardson (18).

Boston was coming off consecutive losses to the Nets and Spurs, sitting at 10-10. Toronto, which got off to a quick start, entered the game 9-11, 3-7 in their last 10 games.

Dennis Schröder and Robert Williams were both missing with injuries. Jaylen Brown was questionable, but ended up playing.

Toronto was without key pieces OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr., as well.

Last Time Boston and Toronto played, the Celtics evened out the season series with a 104-88 win, where Tatum scored 22, grabbed 11 rebounds and had seven assists.

Al Horford started off hot in the first for Boston, scoring all four of Celtics points in the first two minutes. Both teams started off missing most of their shots, the score was 4-2 through the first two and a half minutes.

Pascal Siakam quickly got Toronto back on track, scoring eight points on 3-5 shooting. The Raptors got off to a 16-12 lead halfway through the first quarter. Another slow start for Boston had them behind early again. The Celtics shot 5-13 (38.5%) from the floor. Tatum had another slow start as well, shooting 1-4 with three points and two turnovers.

Fred VanVleet was automatic for Toronto in the first, hitting 3-3 threes for an instant nine points. Boston was able to recover from Toronto’s quick shooting, edging ahead at the end of the first after a Romeo Langford three. After one, Boston led by one, 27-26.

VanVleet’s scoring was consistent, he finished with 27 points and hit 5-10 threes.

Horford was the most impactful Celtic in the first quarter, leading the team in scoring (six), rebounds (five) and assists (two).

The Celtics got off to an 8-0 run to begin the second, but Toronto kept within striking distance with short offensive bursts. Grant Williams was big in the second quarter, he had 10 points at halftime.

Grant, who got the start for the eighth time tonight, is averaging 11 points per game in the games he starts. He’s also averaging five rebounds per game and shooting 54% from the floor, 47% from three in the seven games he’s started.

Williams has had an incredibly efficient season across the board, this recent play has been nothing new.

Boston led at halftime on the back of an absurd amount of free throws in the first half – and perfect efficiency on them. The Celtics went 19-19 before Tatum missed a free throw, They shot 95%, 19-20 in the first half. On the strength of the free throw shooting, Boston was up three at halftime, 54-51.

The Raptors were able to hang around by winning the turnover battle. Boston turned the ball over 11 times to Toronto’s six in the first half.

Turnovers continued to be a problem for Boston in the third, with Grant and Marcus Smart going back-to-back. After VanVleet dropped in another three to bring his scoring to 22 points, Ime Udoka called a timeout, game square at 62.

Scottie Barnes continued his streak of success against Boston, scoring 11 third-quarter points en route to another high scoring performance. Barnes finished with 21 points, his third 20+ game against Boston this year.

The Celtics closed out the fourth quarter on a high note, taking a four-point lead into the final quarter. Fourth quarters had been rough up until this point for Boston this season. They ranked last in fourth quarter points (23.9) in the NBA. The Celtics, who’ve boasted a good defense this season, still ranks 23rd in points given up per fourth quarter (26.9).

Boston continued to stretch their lead over the Raptors in the fourth. The Celtics went on a 13-7 run over the first 4:30 in the fourth to put their lead at 10, 93-83.

The Celtics held Toronto in check in the beginning of the fourth. The Raptors shot just 5-15 in the first seven fourth-quarter minutes, 33%. Marcus Smart was big to start the fourth, hitting 3-3 of his shots for eight points, hitting two 3-pointers.

The Raptors continued to struggle in the fourth offensively, and Boston was able to hold onto their lead, reversing some recent fourth-quarter woes.

The Celtics have two days off before hosting the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m, taking on Joel Embiid, who just dropped 42 points after returning from a bout of COVID-19. After this game, they look to gain back ground in the Eastern Conference Standings and improve to 12-10.

For more postgame coverage of the Celtics bounce back win, tune into the The Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown. Plus, the guys will discuss Grant and Smart leading the way and Tatum facilitating more than scoring.

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