This game started quite poorly — the first half was full of unusual things not going the Raptors’ way. The Celtics typically hit 11 threes in a game at a 35% clip — they hit nine in the first half on 19 attempts. The Kyle Lowry and bench unit are locks to grow leads every time they play — they were outscored 14-6 in the first six minutes of the second quarter and looked terrible on both ends. DeMar DeRozan started the game very poorly, managing only 8 points in the first half on 4/12 shooting with 4 turnovers to boot. The Raptors hit the half trailing 50-42 and were surely glad it wasn’t a bigger deficit with the way they looked early on: exhausted.
The third quarter started much better. After a few minutes of back and forth basketball from the starting units, with the Celtics lead growing from 8 to 12, Patrick Patterson checked in. That unit stopped the bleeding, cutting the lead to single digits again, and then Lucas Nogueira checked in, and the run continued and got even better, as the Raptors caught fire and the Celtics turned the ball over four times with lots of help from a suddenly energetic Raptors’ defence. From when Patterson checked in, the Raptors went on a 25-5 run over those seven minutes. The Raptors would finish the quarter with a 33-18 score in the frame and up 75-68 going into the final quarter.
Extended minutes for Lowry in the third quarter meant the Raptors started the fourth with a lineup with neither Lowry nor DeRozan. They held onto the lead on the back of Norman Powell — who was key defensively to the run in the third quarter and carried the all-bench unit in the fourth. He finished with a season-best 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting and a career high 5 steals, playing 35 minutes on the night. By the time Lowry checked back in with DeRozan with 7 minutes to go, the score was 85-78.
The rest of the game was Lowry and DeRozan deciding the Raptors would win this one. After a few possessions where Nogueira was showing the effects of his extended minutes (an illegal screen, then losing Al Horford for a wide open three), Jonas Valanciunas checked back in with the lead down to seven. With the Celtics playing small, the Raptors ran a unit of Lowry, DeRozan, Cory Joseph and Powell with Valanciunas at first, then with Patterson at centre to close the game.
Solid scoring from the two stars and decent defence down the stretch closed this one out. The lead stayed around seven points right to the end, finishing at a final score of 101-94. Along with Powell, Lowry stood out with another performance where he put the team on his back most of the night and decided to win the game, covering up for a rough night for DeRozan, who started quite badly but picked it up near the end. Lowry finished with 34 points on 9-of-18 shooting (4-of-8 from three), plus seven rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Any road win is a good one, but a road win in a back-to-back against a division rival? That’s pretty great.