TORONTO â€” The Boston Celtics brought a brand of hard-nosed, playoff-style basketball to Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night.
DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors were more than up for the challenge.
DeRozan scored 31 of his season-high 41 points in the second half as Toronto came back for a 114-106 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,800. Jonas Valanciunas added 18 points and a career-high 23 rebounds in an old-school playground style game between Atlantic Division rivals.
“It was a bloodbath,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. “It was nip and tuck all the way. I thought our guys met the physicality of the game.”
Toronto ended its two-game slide and prevented Boston (23-15) from pulling even with the first-place Raptors (25-13) in the division standings.
Toronto trailed by 16 points midway through the third quarter but DeRozan helped bring the Raptors back in the fourth. He scored six straight points before Kyle Lowry’s three-pointer with 2:41 left gave the Raptors a 104-102 lead.
An Isaiah Thomas layup pulled Boston even but DeRozan hit a pair of clutch jumpers down the stretch. The Raptors outscored the Celtics 19-4 over the final five minutes to end Boston’s four-game winning streak.
Toronto’s 16-point comeback was its largest of the season. The Raptors seemed more driven after a frustrated DeRozan picked up a technical foul late in the third quarter.
“There are moments that get you going,” DeRozan said. “Get your adrenalin and get everything going to take it up to another level. For me to show signs of that passion, I think everybody else had no other choice but to follow along and that’s what happened.”
DeRozan had a career-high 13 rebounds while Kyle Lowry added 24 points for Toronto. Thomas led the Celtics with 27 points while Al Horford had 14 points and nine rebounds.
“We didn’t make plays on the offensive end,” Thomas said. “On top of that, we didn’t get stops. They got into a rhythm. DeRozan got into a rhythm and we gave them fouls and offensive rebounds. They took advantage of that.”
Valanciunas was an early force for the Raptors, who wore their Huskies jerseys for the third time this season. He had eight rebounds and six points in the first eight minutes before coming out after picking up a pair of early fouls.
He finished with his team-leading 13th double-double of the season.
“It was a good fight,” Valanciunas said. “They were physical, they were into us, they were bumping, grabbing. That’s the style they play.
“We didn’t let it affect us and we played our way.”
Lucas Nogueira gave Toronto an early spark off the bench, converting an alley-oop pass from Lowry to give the Raptors a 21-14 lead. Nogueira also contributed at the defensive end moments later with a punishing block on Jonas Jerebko.
Toronto led 23-18 after the opening quarter. The Celtics went on an 11-0 run in the second before DeMarre Carroll hit a three-pointer with 13.9 seconds left in the half.
The Raptors had 12 turnovers over the first two quarters, leading to 14 Boston points. The Celtics, meanwhile, turned the ball over seven times (for seven points) and led 55-46 at halftime.
Kelly Olynyk from Kamloops, B.C., hit an open three-pointer early in the third to give Boston a 65-52 lead. The Celtics would extend their lead to 16 moments later but an 8-0 Toronto run â€” highlighted by a Carroll three-pointer â€” helped the Raptors cut into the deficit.
Boston led 84-80 entering the fourth quarter.
Notes: DeRozan, who was one point shy of his career high, has three straight games of 30 points or more. He’s the third player in team history to record 40 points and 10 rebounds in one game. Chris Bosh and Vince Carter are the others. … The Celtics have a 49-34 edge in the all-time series between the teams. … Toronto beat the Celtics 101-94 in their only previous meeting this season on Dec. 9 at Boston. … Former Raptor forward Amir Johnson received some cheers in the pre-game introductions. … It’s the first time the Raptors have played consecutive home games since Dec. 5-8. … The Raptors wore blue Huskies road uniforms and played on an alternate court using the Huskies’ logo and colour scheme. … The Toronto Huskies and Celtics were both charter members of the Basketball Association of America in 1946. The league was renamed the National Basketball Association in 1949 after merging with the National Basketball League. … The Raptors return to action Friday night against the visiting Brooklyn Nets.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press