Pre-game interviews with now-Celtic Amir Johnson were a bit heartbreaking to watch for Toronto Raptors fans. It wasn't easy watching a guy who left everything on the floor and fully immersed himself in the city talk about missing Toronto while wearing Boston green.
The split probably had to happen, but that doesn't make it easy. The bitter taste faded considerably after the Raptors walked out of TD Garden with a 113-103 victory on Friday thanks to a mostly dominant second half.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors (2-0) with 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists as Dwane Casey tied Sam Mitchell for the most coaching wins in team history. DeMarre Carroll added 21 and Terrence Ross also contributed 21 off the bench, all but icing the game with a three-pointer with less than six minutes remaining.
Boston (1-1) was paced by Isaiah Thomas, who poured in 25 points and seven dimes in a losing effort.
For the second straight contest, the Raptors came out labouring offensively, settling for mid-range jumpers and allowing Boston to run out to an early lead. Casey burned a timeout and that seemed to get Toronto on track, at least temporarily.
DeRozan and Carroll netted back-to-back three-pointers and Jonas Valanciunas attacked David Lee in the post, leading to two quick fouls on the Celtics' big man.
All in all, despite shooting an abysmal six-of-22, Toronto and Boston were all square after one thanks to the Raptors' 12 trips to the charity stripe.
The foul fest would continue in the second with the teams combining to shoot 24 free-throws in the frame. Multiple players expressed frustration with the officiating, and three technical fouls were handed out in the period, including one to Cory Joseph.
Antony Bennett also made his debut in the quarter and looked decent on the glass, tearing down a few tough rebounds in traffic. There was little pace to speak of, but we were given the first Raptors eye-popping play of the season when Kyle Lowry found DeRozan for an alley-oop. At recess, the division rivals were knotted at 54.
After struggling in his first six quarters as a Raptor, Luis Scola came out with a fire in his belly to start the second half, leading Toronto on an 11-2 run. He flashed his mid-range jumper, his tenacity on the boards and his hustle during the stretch, saving a loose ball from going out of bounds, which led to a three-point play from Lowry on the break.
Swarming team defence and prolific shooting from deep helped Toronto expand its lead to 82-68 with just over three minutes to play in the third. With just 10 career long balls to his name, Scola capped the run by knocking down a trey from the right corner. The Raptors would end up carrying a nine-point edge into the final 12 minutes.
A great sign for Casey's second unit came early in the fourth, when Ross took the reins on three straight possessions, showing off a tough drive to the basket before twice creating a shot for himself off the dribble to stretch the lead and help put the game out of reach.
Boston made things much more interesting than they should have been with a late run, but could not fully get over the hump.
What did you think of the Raptors' win on Friday? Has Scola won you over? Are you a fan of the new-look Ross?