BOSTON – After coming apart in the fourth quarter of their last two games, the Celtics saved their best play for crunch time Thursday. They snapped their two-game losing streak and cooled off the Toronto Raptors pulling away for a 120-106 win at TD Garden.
After Kyle Lowry scored to cut Boston’s lead to 102-95 with 5:44 left, even in the empty building, the Garden energy portrayed the critical moment as the next basket figured to deliver considerable momentum to whoever scored it.
After Kemba Walker missed a 3-pointer, Daniel Theis blocked Aron Baynes at the rim. Jaylen Brown’s 3-point try rattled out, but he blocked Norman Powell at the other end. On the ensuing break, Brown drove and found Walker on the wing. He knocked down the 3-pointer.
As the Raptors called time out, the Celtics bench erupted in celebration, while Toronto folded. It started an 11-0 Boston run that sealed the game.
The Celtics finished with 39 assists on 30 baskets with their two best players serving as their primary playmakers.
Tatum, who had 40 against the Raptors last month, had 17 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Foul trouble and an off-shooting night held Brown to just 12 points, but he had 10 assists.
Success driving to the basket continues to elude Walker, but he was good from outside shooting 5-for-7 from 3-point ranged en route to 21 points.
The Celtics will host the Detroit Pistons, Friday at 8 p.m.
With Robert Williams out with hip soreness, the Stevens went to a smaller starting lineup replacing Tristan Thompson with Semi Ojeleye. The versatile reserve seemed energized by the role upgrade with a team-high 24 points. Ojeleye had eight of the Celtics’ first 17 points as they raced out to a 17-6 edge.
That set the stage for big first-half scoring numbers for Boston players who don’t usually unaccustomed to producing them. Ojeleye had 19 points on five 3-pointers in the first half, while Pritchard had 14.
The Celtics led 34-29 after the first quarter and stretched their lead to 66-56 at halftime. Boston led just 58-55 with 1:16 left in the second, but after an Ojeleye 3, a Theis steal led to a Pritchard 3. The teams traded one Siakim free throw for two by Walker give the home team a halftime cushion.
The Raptors peeled two points of Boston’s lead in a third quarter where both teams’ offense dropped off some. From the 4:36 mark until there were 48 seconds left, the teams combined to miss 16 straight shots from all distances as the Celtics took an 88-80 lead into the fourth.
Lowry led Toronto with 24 points.