The Boston Celtics didn’t waste much time Wednesday ruining a historic Christmas Day for the Toronto Raptors. Fortunately for the Raptors, they won’t have to wait long at all to try and gain a measure of revenge.
The Celtics and Raptors will play for the second time in a little more than 72 hours Saturday night, when Boston hosts Toronto in a battle of Eastern Conference contenders.
The Celtics will be completing a back-to-back set of home games after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-117 on Friday afternoon. The Raptors have been off since falling to visiting Boston 118-102 on Wednesday afternoon.
The Christmas Day game was the first ever played north of the border and an obvious reward to the Raptors for winning the franchise’s first NBA title last season. But Toronto, which was without forwards Norman Powell (shoulder) and Pascal Siakam (groin) as well as center Marc Gasol (hamstring), trailed for the final 40 minutes Wednesday despite jumping out to a 10-0 lead.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse took some solace in the fact his team wasn’t the only one to underperform Wednesday. The Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks were upset by the Philadelphia 76ers while a pair of Western Conference also-rans, the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans, knocked off a pair of 20-win teams in the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets, respectively.
“I just hope we can play a little bit more characteristic of the way we play,” Nurse said following practice Friday. “I think we were a little bit out of character there on Christmas Day, for whatever reason. Seemed to be going around the league, though, as I watched the games go by. There were some funky games on Christmas Day. So let’s see if we can get back to being ourselves a little bit more.”
The Celtics’ identity hasn’t seemed to be a problem during a five-game winning streak in which Boston has outscored the opposition by an average of 17 points per contest. Fourteen of Boston’s 22 victories this season, including each of the past four, have been by at least 10 points.
On Friday, the Celtics were keyed by the young duo of Jaylen Brown (34 points) and Jayson Tatum (30 points). It marked the first time Boston’s had two 30-point scorers in the same game since Jeff Green (35 points) and Avery Bradley (32 points) did so against the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 3, 2014.
Still, coach Brad Stevens wasn’t thrilled Friday when the Celtics gave up their third-most points of the season and allowed the Cavaliers to score 70 points in the second half.
“Today was the worst one out of the five (straight wins), I’d say,” Stevens told NBC Sports Boston afterward. “They put us in a bind on defense and obviously we let go on the defensive end at the end of the game.”
Brown hit the 30-point mark for the second game in a row and the fourth time this season. He also matched his season high by sinking five 3-pointers on both Wednesday and Friday.
–Field Level Media