Celtics stay perfect in preseason, beat Raptors 113-111

No Jaylen Brown or Dennis Schröder? No problem. Two games into the preseason, and the Boston Celtics are sitting pretty after scraping by the Raptors, 111-113. Jayson Tatum (20) and Al Horford (16) led the scoring charge for Boston, while Grant Williams topped all reserves with 12 points.

First Quarter: Romeo Langford got the start with Jaylen Brown sidelined, and the Indiana product made the most of his opportunity early, burying a triple to give the Celtics their first field goal and a 5-1 lead. Langford’s shot ushered in an early-game three-point barrage for Boston, as Smart and Horford each connected on a three by the 9:30 mark, extending the Celtics edge to 11-1.

After a blistering start, though, Boston somewhat fell back to earth. Toronto responded with a run of their own in the middle of the first, 13-8 to be exact, thanks to scoring and playmaking from Goran Dragic and Fred VanVleet. With 3:41 remaining in the period, the Raptors trailed by just five, 14-19.

Then in the waning moments of the first, Boston’s bench entered the game and helped the green gain breathing room once again. Grant Williams, Josh Richarson, and Payton Pritchard all scored within minutes of seeing their first action. Largely because of the spirited effort from the reserves, the Celtics held a decisive 16-31 edge at the end of one. Grant Williams was the MVP of the first with seven points and one rebound in six minutes.

Second Quarter: Slow starts to quarters plagued Boston in their preseason opener. Unfortunately, the beginning of the second was a similar story. By the near-halfway mark (6:46), the Celtics scored just eight more points after dropping 31 in the first.

Much of the reason for this was Boston opted to play the inexperienced youngsters (Pritchard, Nesmith, and Langford) together for long stretches. While Pritchard and Langford had encouraging flashes scattered throughout the quarter, the offense was lackluster and turnover-happy without any de-facto playmaker on the floor.

But by the halfway point, Tatum, Smart, and Horford checked back in, and the ball movement and bucket-getting picked up (a bit). Although the Celtics had trouble scoring for much of the period, their second-quarter defense was even worse. Toronto torched Boston for 43 points in the 12 minutes leading up to halftime, and just like that, the C’s 15-point lead was gone. The Raptors entered halftime up two, 59-57.

Third Quarter: Jayson Tatum had an uncharacteristically sub-par first half scoring-wise, making just two of seven shots from the field. That said, he entered the third with a scoring mindset, netting the team’s opening points of the period with a driving layup. Additionally, back-to-back threes from Langford and Horford (who combined to shoot 6-for-7 from deep at this juncture) aided the Celtics in regaining a one-point lead, 66-67, by the 7:44 mark. Then a Tatum masterclass took place for much of the latter end of the third, as the Duke alum dropped ten by the quarter’s end, equating his first-half total. Boston entered the fourth trailing 86-85.

Fourth Quarter: As expected, neither team played their starters across the final 12 minutes of action. Nonetheless, Nesmith and Pritchard — two neophytes expected to have significant roles this season — were on the floor to begin the final frame. Pritchard handled the pressure marvelously, scoring or assisting on Boston’s first seven points of the quarter. With the Celtics up nine at the 6:07 mark, both squads waved the white flag and ran with their third-stringers. Boston concluded the game with Jabari Parker, Sam Hauser, Ryan Arcidiacono, Bruno Fernando, and Juancho Hernangomez.

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