No Jaylen Brown, no problem: Celtics escape Toronto with 105-96 win over Raptors

No Jaylen Brown, no problem: Celtics escape Toronto with 105-96 win over Raptors

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The Boston Celtics travelled up north to Toronto to take on the Raptors Monday night without Jaylen Brown and narrowly escaped with a 105-96 win.

It didn’t take long for this game to turn into a block party, as Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis combined for three of them in the opening two minutes.

Holiday, specifically, was everywhere right off the bat on both sides of the ball. In the first six minutes and change, he had racked up eight points, two assists, two rebounds and a steal to go along with his pair of rejections.

Outside of Jrue, the Celtics were sloppy offensively early on, firing a multitude of errant passes that resulted in turnovers. Eventually, Boston settled things down on that side of the ball and rattled off a string of pretty possessions to open up a slight lead.

With a few minutes remaining in the opening quarter, Porzingis strung together back-to-back strong plays, first setting up Luke Kornet at the basket with a nice feed and then hitting a tough layup off the drive.

Efficiency from deep proved to be the difference in the first quarter, as the Celtics hit five of their nine long-range attempts (55.6%) while Toronto connected on just two of eight triples. Holiday and RJ Barrett led all scorers with 10 each at the break, with Boston holding a 29-25 lead.

The unit of Pritchard, White, Hauser, Horford and Kornet struggled a bit out of the gates in the second quarter, as Toronto quickly retook the lead.

With Brown out due to a hyperextended knee, other guys needed to step up offensively and Horford clearly got the memo, hitting a transition three and tallying a couple points off a goaltend in the paint.

White entered this contest averaging 25 points per game with Brown out of the lineup, and he picked up right where he left off despite the recent shooting slump. A pair of long-range buckets brought the versatile guard up to a dozen points early in the second.

Oshae Brissett got an opportunity midway through the second quarter and brought the energy, racking up seven points in as many minutes.

After a relatively quiet opening quarter, Jayson Tatum — or January Jay, as some are calling him — began hunting for his shot. The superstar hit three seconds after checking into the game and then converted a tough and-1 midrange jumper.

As he has done all year long, Kristaps Porzingis gave the defense fits operating out of the high post. This time, Jontay Porter was the victim of a myriad of moves by the Unicorn.

Four Celtics were in double figures at halftime as Boston boasted a 61-55 lead. On Toronto’s side, the former New York Knicks duo of RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley kept the Raptors close, combining for 30. The Celtics still held a significant advantage from deep at the break, but they tripled Toronto’s turnovers.

Barrett picked up where he left off early in the third quarter. Steve Nash’s godson has looked very comfortable since returning to his home country of Canada, and that remained the case against the Cs.

Offensively, stagnation and turnovers hurt Boston to open the second half. This has been a persistent issue for the Celtics, as they entered Monday’s contest ranked 17th in third-quarter points. Toronto simply looked like the more active, fluid offensive team, and in the blink of an eye the Raptors had jumped out to a 71-64 lead.

After a strong first half, Porzingis began to force the issue, racking up five turnovers halfway through the third.

Despite the relative sloppiness offensively, the Celtics fought their way back into the game, getting the opportunity to tie things back up following a monstrous and-1 Tatum dunk.

That play proved to be a massive momentum-shifter.

January Jay continued to earn his nickname, as he spearheaded a 20-4 Celtics run to end the third. Tatum was up to 19 points on the night by the end of the quarter, as Boston took an 84-75 lead into the final 12 minutes.

White ran the show to open the fourth, scoring seven straight for the Celtics as they opened up a 14-point lead. The two squads proceeded to trade off run after run, with the Raptors cutting their deficit to four with two minutes remaining in the contest.

Despite yet another inefficient shooting night, White came up clutch when he was called on, hitting a three to put Boston up seven with 1:17 left. A defensive stop and two Holiday free throws bumped that lead to nine, which finally put any thoughts of a Toronto comeback to rest.

It wasn’t the prettiest display of late-game execution, but the Celtics escaped Toronto with a 105-96 win, improving to 31-9 on the season. It was a balanced effort for Boston, as White and Holiday both poured in 22 and all five starters finished in double figures.

Next up, the Celtics host rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs in TD Garden on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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