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Celtics spoil Raptors' In-Season Tournament debut with narrow victory

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TORONTO — It's all a matter of putting together a complete 48 minutes of good basketball for the Toronto Raptors.

Jaylen Brown scored 23 points, Derrick White scored a late go-ahead three-pointer and the Boston Celtics spoiled Toronto's In-Season Tournament opener with a 108-105 win on Friday night. The Raptors were outscored 39-17 in the second quarter after a solid first, forcing them to claw their way back in the second half.

"We won in the second half," Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic said. "We did not do a great job, especially in that second quarter, allowing them 39 points. We've just got to put it together.

"We had moments playing really solid defence and really solid offence. You’re talking about one of, arguably, the best teams in the league right now and we were able to hold them down to 108 points. I thought our intentions and our focus was on a much higher level in the second half, especially the third quarter."

Hampering Toronto even more was missing all-star forward Pascal Siakam for the entire second quarter due to foul trouble. Siakam had eight points in the first quarter but picked up three fouls.

"That was a tough, tough one," Rajakovic said. "He picked up the two fouls early, we had a sub for him to get him out earlier in the first quarter so he could come back and play.

"With three fouls, it would be really, really hard, I was not willing to risk there and get him in a fourth foul … he was huge in the second half for us. I wish he played eight, nine more minutes for us tonight."

Jayson Tatum contributed 17 points for Boston (10-2), which extended its winning streak to five games and improved to 2-0 in group play and sits atop East Group C.

"I felt like we did a good job tonight, but I thought it was one of our lesser performances," Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said. "We’re fortunate enough to come out with a win but we were able to learn a lot and feel a lot of the things that we haven’t felt yet as a team."

Siakam and Dennis Schroder had 23 points apiece for Toronto (5-7), which donned its new gold and black city edition jerseys, with the court painted black and grey and the NBA Cup logo displayed in three different spots.

Schroder said the game had a post-season feel to it.

"We lost the game but at the end of the day, I think it's a good thing for the league, for a special, kind of like a playoff game," Schroder said. "Looking forward to the other ones."

The Raptors were ahead 24-18 with 3:54 remaining in the first quarter when Siakam was called for a questionable third foul and a coach's challenge was unsuccessful. However, Toronto closed the frame up 32-26.

Tatum put a bow on the Celtics' 39-point frame with a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give Boston a 65-49 edge at halftime.

Jakob Poeltl's layup with 2:58 left put the Raptors ahead 77-76 in the third quarter. But the lead was short-lived as the Celtics ended the frame ahead 84-81.

Poeltl's putback layup with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter gave the Raptors a 103-101 lead. But Kristaps Porzingis immediately tied it for Boston 18 seconds later.

White's corner three with 26.8 seconds left put the Celtics ahead for good, as Scottie Barnes missed a tying three-point attempt with 11.1 seconds on the clock.

TOURNAMENT PLAY

Each conference is split into three groups of five teams, with each squad playing four games within its group — two at home and two on the road — for an opportunity to move on to the knockout rounds.

Group play began Nov. 3 and ends Nov. 28 across the NBA. Chicago, Brooklyn and Orlando are the other teams in East Group C along with Toronto and Boston.

Eight teams across the league, consisting of the six group leaders and two wild-card teams, will advance for a shot at the NBA Cup. The quarterfinals will be Dec. 4-5 in NBA team markets.

Las Vegas will host the semifinals on Dec. 7 and the championship on Dec. 9. Every game except the championship also counts in the regular-season standings.

UP NEXT

The Raptors close a four-game homestand against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

The Celtics play the third of a four-game road trip against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2023.