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NBA: Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Raptors win OT thriller in Montreal, drop Celtics 137-134

The Toronto Raptors capped off their preseason with an exciting win in Montreal, starring O.G. Anunoby as HIM.

Tonight was the last preseason game (aka gam that doesn’t count on the official books), and both teams could have fielded their bench, but the Montreal crowd got treated to an OT thriller where the Toronto Raptors outlasted the Boston Celtics, 137-134.

With no Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr., coach Nick Nurse turned to O.G. Anunoby as the focal point of the offense, and he did not disappoint. Anunoby finished with 32 points, six rebounds and two blocks while getting his perimeter shot back, going four-for-five from behind the arc. The Raptors fanbase can now put their worry to rest, as Scottie Barnes looked excellent, adding 25 points and four assists. Fred VanVleet chipped in 13 points and seven assists but was clearly operating in a lower gear for most of the game.

Jaylen Brown and Derrick White paced the Celtics with 23 apiece, while Jayson Tatum added 21 before he got tossed late in the third quarter.

The Raptors weathered an early avalanche of perimeter shots from the Celtics (+36 from downtown). They slowly imposed their size and activity, pounding the Celtics on the boards and turning them over, leading to 16 more possessions.

Justin Champagnie got major minutes tonight, but it felt like he was getting a run to shake off the rust, as he hasn’t played in a while. He looked rusty, as expected, and was a non-factor with his minutes, playing alongside rotation players, but he did have some moments in-game. Josh Jackson’s offense was non-existent tonight, but he had a few effort plays defensively that would put a smile on Nurse’s face. DJ Wilson and Gabe Brown earned DNPs.

Anunoby got things going early for the Raptors, scoring nine of the team’s first 13 points, as the initial game plan was to attack Derrick White. But White got his payback on the other end, taking advantage of the kick outs to the corner, hitting a couple of them to force coach Nick Nurse to call for a timeout as the Raptors trailed the Celtics, 17-13. The timeout didn’t help, as White continued to wax from the perimeter, hitting his third trifecta. A broken fastbreak play pumped the crowd as Khem Birch picked up the hot potato for a dunk.

It looked like the priority for tonight’s game was to get Anunoby going, as he drilled his second perimeter shot en route to his 14th point of the quarter. Justin Champanie, Christian Koloko, and Thaddeus Young got the first nod off the bench, and Koloko’s dunk in transition cut the Celtics’ lead to 25-22. However, sloppy offense and defense allowed the Celtics to go on a 7-0 run to build a 10-point lead.

Banton’s two freebies got the Raptors ahead momentarily to start the second period. Still, the Raptors’ defense kept surrendering corner threes and three-pointers in general, as Tatum’s three straight trifectas gave the Celtics a quick 16-5 run. With the exception of VanVleet/Young PnR, the offense just got so ugly without Anunoby out there. As the Celtics made it rain from behind the arc (making 11 in a quarter and-a-half), VanVleet grifted for a couple of trips to the line to slow down the Celtics’ momentum. Thank God our young prince returned to the game and promptly knocked down a top-of-the-key trifecta off an offensive rebound.

With their staunch defense back, physicality on the offensive end, the momentum is back on their side, The Raptors worked a 17-4 run to take a 60-59 lead.

Unfortunately, the Celtics got their bearings back, going on a 7-0 run, but was quickly snapped by Barnes’ second perimeter bomb. Achiuwa struggled to get his offense, but Koloko’s length and activity bothered the Celtics greatly. The Raptors ended the half trailing the Celtics, 63-66.

White opened the second half the way he started the game: with another corner three. The game quickly transitioned into a pick-up game feel, as Achiuwa’s and Birch’s early transition attacks earned the m a trip, putting the Raptors up 73-71 via an 8-0 run. The Celtics fell in love with the perimeter shot, and the law-of-averages started catching up to them. Anunoby extended the run with an and-1 against Brown, but he failed to complete the three-point play, which Barnes rectified on his and-1 a few plays later, as they led 78-73.

Brown’s trifecta snapped the Celtics’ perimeter funk, giving the lead back to the Celtics, 82-80. VanVleet’s alley-oop to Koloko was probably the first one from the dunker’s spot in several years for the Raptors, and boy, did he reach up high to get to VanVleet’s pass. The Celtics finally started game planning on Anunoby on defense, sending three defenders to meet him at the cup. Marcus Smart was in midseason form when it comes to faking getting hurt to look tough and moving great ten seconds later, as he drew a charge from Anunoby. Koloko found a loose ball from the top of the key, and the Raptors’ fanbase in Montreal got blessed with another highlight reel, this time, a breakaway dunk from the rook.

Are we sure the Raptors are sending Koloko to the Raptors 905? Young found a cutting Koloko for another dunk and blocked Grant Williams’ layup attempt. VanVleet’s layup cut the Celtics’ lead to 91-92.

Unfortunately, the refs would steal the spotlight and take the fun away from this game, throwing out Tatum for excessive complaining. I can’t believe the ref could not wait for 30 more seconds, as Tatum likely wouldn’t see minutes in the fourth after playing the entire quarter.

Young’s putback opened up the final period, putting the Raptors up by two. The Raptors pushed their lead to six as Barnes’ continued to piece together one excellent play after another, taking Williams to school one possession and finding Banton cutting for a layup the next play.

Juancho Hernangomez finally hit a perimeter shot, and Champagnie blocked Sam Hauser’s perimeter shot. Jeff Dowtin made his first appearance, and Champagnie finally made his first field goal with a putback. Dowtin saw old man Horford and took him to the cup for a layup, pushing the Raptors’ lead to 115-108.

Horford’s trifecta cut the Raptors’ lead to three, and the Celtics, still playing most of their starters, grifted an offensive foul from Koloko. Smart tried to do the splits but remained in the game to show his toughness, prompting Williams to personally wipe the floor where Smart slipped. Brown’s layup cut the lead to one, but Achiuwa+3rd stringers won’t be deterred, pushing the lead back to two with more than four minutes left in the game.

Williams tied the game from the line for the Celtics, while the Raptors crashed the offensive boards hard, leading to a Dowtin putback. The Raptors forced Williams to an offensive foul, while Banton came down with a long two to push the lead to four. White’s two free throws cut the Raptors’ lead to two, and Banton rewarded the Raptors’ offensive rebound game with a layup, pushing the lead to five. Noah Vonleh tipped Williams’ layup, and the Raptors came empty on the next possession.

The Celtics turned it over with another Williams offensive foul. Unfortunately, Dowtin missed a middy, and Josh Jackson sent William to the line, who missed the second free throw. The ball got to Sam Hauser, sinking a three-pointer to put Celtics up by one, which Banton immediately took back with his own middy, with under a minute to go. Justin Jackson’s floater took the lead back, and Josh Jackson split his free throws to tie the game at 127 with 15 seconds to go. Payton Pritchard missed a middy in regulation, and we got more free basketball!

Champagnie earned a trip to the line to start OT, sinking both freebies. Banton missed a floater, Dowtin missed a middy, but Champagnie was rounding out to form with a high-degree-of-difficulty scoop layup. Josh Jackson took a charge from Vonleh, and Achiuwa’s have had enough, getting an and-1 to put the Raptors up 134-127. Justin Jackson’s trifecta cut the lead to four, and the Raptors came back with an empty trip. The Celtics came back with Vonleh going to the line for two freebies, cutting the lead to two. Banton and Achiuwa connected for a PnR oop, putting the Raptors up four with over two minutes to go. The Raptors collapsed on Williams to stop his layup, but Banton and co. failed to push the lead in successive possessions. Vonleh’s layup with 8 seconds remaining cut the lead to two, forcing the Raptors to call a timeout.

The Celtics sent Achiuwa to the line, splitting the freebies with 7.7 remaining. Pritchard had a chance to tie the game, getting a clean look at Dowtin and Banton ran into each other, but one OT of ugly late-game basketball should be enough.

Now that the preseason is out of the way, it’s time to look ahead and focus on the regular season. Siakam and VanVleet have been solid for the most part, and thankfully Anunoby and Barnes rounded out to form right on time. Add the injuries (Otto Porter Jr., Malachi Flynn, Gary Trent Jr., and Chris Boucher) to the mix, and the Raptors could be looking at a shaky start as they face a tough schedule to start the season. Can Siakam come up big early and back up his words of being a top-five player in the NBA this coming season? We’ll find out starting next week as the Raptors open the season in Toronto against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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