Celtics 120 Raptors 106
BOSTON — Semi Ojeleye scored 24 points and the Boston Celtics made 20 three-pointers to beat the road-weary Toronto Raptors 120-106 on Thursday.
Kemba Walker had 21 points, while Payton Pritchard added 20 points for the Celtics (13-11).
Kyle Lowry had 24 points for the Raptors (12-14), who were playing the second game of a back-to-back, and the finale of a six-game road trip, the team’s longest in the first half of the season.
The Raptors, who went 4-2 on a trip that saw them play five games in seven nights, got 23 points from Pascal Siakam, 15 from Norm Powell and 12 points and six rebounds from Chris Boucher.
The Raptors poured in 19 three-pointers on 59 per cent shooting from distance only a night earlier in 137-115 rout of Washington.
Heavy legs made for a different story on Thursday. The Raptors were off target all night and never led, trailing by 15 points late in the third quarter.
Down by eight with one quarter to play, Aaron Baynes’ cutting dunk off a lovely Lowry pass made it a five-point game with 7:17 to play. The Raptors missed three straight shots at the rim, and Walker’s three-pointer had Boston back up by 10 with 4:42 to play.
The Raptors had nothing left, and Ojeleye’s layup stretched the difference to 14 and put the game out of reach with 3:10 to play.
Toronto had nine three-pointers on the night. Ojeleye accounted for six of Boston’s threes.
Nick Nurse knew the Raptors were in tough against the Celtics, who beat Toronto 126-114 on Jan. 4 during Toronto’s 2-8 early-season struggles.
“I’d imagine we’ll need to be working pretty hard to figure out how to stop these guys tonight,” the Raptors coach said pre-game.
Missing OG Anunoby — he missed his ninth straight game a calf strain — and Yuta Watanabe (ankle sprain) didn’t help.
“Especially on a back-to-back here,” Nurse said. “But as they say, we’ve got to throw it up with who’s available and do the best we can.”
The Celtics, who beat Toronto in seven games in the second round of the playoffs in the NBA bubble last summer, jumped out to an early 11-point lead, and led 34-29 to end the first quarter.
Baynes’ hook shot pulled Toronto to within a point early in the second, but Boston pulled away and went into the halftime break with a 66-56 lead.
The Celtics went up 83-68 in the third, but Boucher’s three-pointer sliced the difference to 88-80 with one quarter left.
The Raptors are back “home” to host Minnesota on Sunday at Tampa’s Amalie Arena, the team’s home base for the remainder of the season, the Raptors announced earlier Thursday, due to continued COVID-19 restrictions in Canada.