Jaylen Brown scored 30 points to lead the Boston Celtics to a 118-102 victory over Toronto on Wednesday, spoiling the Raptors’ first Christmas Day game at home.
Fred VanVleet had 27 points while Chris Boucher added a career-high 24 for the Raptors (21-10), who sorely missed the service of injured teammates Pascal Siakam (groin), Marc Gasol (hamstring), and Norman Powell (shoulder). Kyle Lowry had 14 points and eight assists, while Serge Ibaka chipped in 12 points.
Kemba Walker added 22 points for the Celtics (21-7) in their fourth consecutive victory, while Enes Kanter had 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in his first game outside the United States in more than a year.
The Raptors’ loss was their first in 35 home appearances versus Atlantic Division opponents. It was also Boston’s first win in nine trips north of the border.
The game was an eyesore for the Raptors, who botched easy layups, and turned the ball over 17 times for 20 points.
The short-handed Raptors played their third game in four days against a rested Celtics squad, and after sprinting out to a 10-0 lead, played the gracious holiday host virtually the rest of the way.
The Celtics compiled an 11-point lead in the second quarter, and had stretched it to 19 points by the end of the third in a sloppy affair that saw 29 combined turnovers through the first three quarters.
Three nights after the Raptors rallied from a 30-point deficit to beat Dallas at Scotiabank Arena – their biggest comeback in franchise history – there were no late-game heroics. Trailing 88-69 to start the fourth, the Raptors pulled to within 14 points in the first 35 seconds, injecting some life into the 19,800 fans.
But Patrick McCaw missed on a cutting layup on Toronto’s next possession, prompting groans from the crowd, and barely a minute later the Celtics were up by 20.
A VanVleet layup pulled the Raptors to within 17 with 4:46 to play, but Toronto couldn’t sustain any energy. Nor could the fans, who began heading to the exits shortly after.
The afternoon marked the first NBA game played outside the U.S. on Christmas, and tipped off a schedule of five marquee matchups on the day. Teams consider it an honour to play on Christmas; the Raptors had done it only once previously, in New York in 2001, while the Celtics were playing for their fourth consecutive Christmas game.
“We’re excited to be a part of it,” coach Nick Nurse said before the game. “I know that I’ve got contacts from all over the world that have said they can’t wait to open their presents and then watch the game, so I think it’s really cool to be a part of it.”
Kanter hadn’t played a game in Toronto in over a year after Turkey, his home country, issued an international warrant for his arrest. He received the green light for Christmas with help from the Canadian government, and arrived at the game wearing a black T-shirt with the words “Freedom for All.”
Lowry’s three-pointer just 1:53 into the game gave the Raptors a 10-0 and forced the Celtics to call a timeout. Boston replied with a 9-0 run and then kept the pressure on forcing seven Toronto turnovers. The Celtics led 28-19 to start the second.
A Kanter layup 44 seconds into the second quarter put Boston up by 11. The Raptors responded with an 11-3 run to pull to within three points but couldn’t sustain any momentum, and the Celtics went into the halftime break up 55-47.
Brown led the way with 16 Celtics points in the third and a Jayson Tatum finger roll had the visitors up by 19 with a minute to play in the frame.
These two teams meet again in Boston on Saturday. The Raptors are back home to host Oklahoma City on Sunday and the Cleveland Cavaliers on New Years Eve.