When starters for both teams were on the court Wednesday night, the Celtics had their way with the Raptors, once again relying on 3-point shooting and a frenetic, switching defense to cause fits.
Although Toronto eventually overcame a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit and grabbed a 125-119 overtime win at TD Garden behind their third-stringers, the Celtics will mostly just care about the fact that they remained in command when it mattered.
Boston led, 81-62, when its starters took a seat with four minutes left in the third quarter of the second preseason game. The thorough performance followed a 41-point romp against the Hornets on Sunday.
Jaylen Brown scored 23 points, second-year forward Sam Hauser hit five 3-pointers and added 22 off the bench, and Jayson Tatum tallied 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Celtics.
The lead was 93-74 early in the fourth before the Raptors surged back after both teams went deep into their benches. A 3-pointer by Gabe Brown gave the Raptors a 106-104 lead with 1:55 left.
With 1:11 remaining in regulation, Hauser was initially called for a charge on a drive, but the Celtics challenged the play and prevailed, resulting in a three-point play for a 109-108 lead. But Payton Pritchard missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer and the Raptors seized control in the extra session.
Observations from the game:
▪ In the win over the Hornets on Sunday, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said not to read into his substitution patterns because they’d likely change as the preseason goes along, a pretty common approach. But it was more of the same in the first half Wednesday, with Derrick White remaining in the starting lineup and Noah Vonleh being the first player on a training camp deal to get an opportunity. Vonleh had a nice dunk and three rebounds in three first-half minutes and appears to be one of the favorites to land a regular roster spot before cuts next week.
▪ Mazzulla had said he planned to see how the game unfolded before deciding whether to play veteran forward Blake Griffin, who signed with the team Monday. That possibility was snuffed out right away when Griffin arrived at the bench wearing a white sweatsuit.
▪ Last season, the players on the bench made a habit of standing until Boston scored its first basket. But this season the NBA added a “point of education” that forbids players who are not in the game from standing at or away from their team’s bench. Near the start of Wednesday’s matchup, the Celtics stood anyway. Then an official stopped the game and told them to sit. It at least clears the view for some people in the lower level.
▪ The first quarter was an adventure for Marcus Smart. He flipped one pass about five rows deep into the stands, then on a fast break passed up a relatively open layup in order to attempt an alley-oop pass off the backboard for a streaking Jaylen Brown. The play didn’t end well, and moments later Smart was on the bench, perhaps an early statement by Mazzulla.
▪ Malcolm Brogdon continues to look quite comfortable on the offense. Even though he averaged 20 points per game for the Pacers last season, he is clearly embracing a pass-first mentality. He registered a team-high seven assists in the first half, with one coming when he passed up an open layup and fed the ball to Tatum for an open dunk.
▪ Three of Brogdon’s early assists came on passes to Hauser, who wowed the crowd with his long-range shooting once again. The first was a first-quarter buzzer-beater that followed some crisp ball movement. There was some skepticism among the fan base when Celtics brass insisted it was confident Hauser could fill some of the void created by Danilo Gallinari’s ACL injury. Two preseason games do not prove that point, but Hauser’s shooting has certainly been encouraging.
▪ The Celtics seem set on keeping Brogdon in a sixth-man role, but there’s little doubt he’ll be part of closing lineups quite often, especially with Robert Williams out. At the end of the first half Brogdon had a strong stint while joining Brown, Tatum, Smart and Al Horford.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism