By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Celtics stumbled out of the gate, but were boosted by a monster second quarter from Jayson Tatum as they beat the Toronto Raptors on Monday, 126-114.
With Canada halting ‘unnecessary’ travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the game was played at the Raptors’ temporary home in Tampa. That ‘home court advantage’ didn’t do much for Toronto, who saw an early 13-point lead evaporate quickly.
Toronto had been struggling to shoot the three to start the season, but seemingly broke through early in the game. Their first seven shots were all from beyond the arc, with six of those shots falling. That forced Brad Stevens to use an early timeout with his team trailing 18-5.
Once the second until came in, things steadied a bit for the Celtics, thanks in part to five first-quarter points from Payton Pritchard. Through 12 minutes, the Raptors led 32-23.
The Celtics went on a 10-0 run early in the second quarter, mostly keyed by Pritchard. They tied the game up a 36-36 four minutes into the second frame. Boston took the lead a few minutes later thanks to 14 straight points from Jayson Tatum.
His streak was only snapped when he passed up an open jumper to give Payton Pritchard a clear look at a layup. Tatum registered the assist, the Raptors called timeout, and the Celtics led 52-42 with just under three minutes to play until halftime.
Nothing but the bottom of the net pic.twitter.com/XthiSpSrko— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 5, 2021
Tatum got to the line four more times before the end of the quarter, and hit all four shots. He scored 24 points in the second quarter alone, and had 26 at the half with the Celtics leading 61-46.
Out of the half, the Celtics turned to the two-man game with Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The duo combined for 13 of the C’s first 16 points of the half. At the midway TV timeout, Boston led 77-62.
At the end of three quarters, Tatum had a game-high 38 points. The Celtics led 100-81 heading into the fourth.
Brad Stevens elected to role with the second and third units for most of the forth quarter, but the reserves struggled. After Toronto cut the lead to 10 with two and a half minutes to play, Stevens put the starters back in the game to close things out.
When it was all said and done, Tatum had 40 points – two shy of his career-high. He shot 11-of-19 from the field, and was a perfect 13-for-13 from the line. On top of that, he turned in six assists and two blocks.
While Tatum came close to setting his career high, rookie Payton Pritchard well surpassed his. The 26th overall pick had his first 20-point NBA game, scoring 23 on 8-of-11 shooting. With his eight assists, he became the first Celtics rookie with at least 20 points and eight assists in a game since Antoine Walker in 1997.
Four other Celtics scored in double figures as well. Jaylen Brown had 19 points, Grant Williams had 14, Semi Ojeleye scored 12, and Robert Williams recorded his first double-double of the year with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
On the other side, Fred VanVleet led Toronto with 35 points, Pascal Siakam added 22.
With the win, the Celtics improve to 5-3 on the year. They’ll stay in the state of Florida for their next game, a matchup with the Heat on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., but you can catch pregame coverage starting at 7:00 on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.