The Celtics played some role reversal Thursday night, and survived to like it.
Jayson Tatum (17 points) and Jaylen Brown (12) shook off quiet scoring nights to feed everyone else with 19 combined assists in a 120-106 win over Toronto. Brown’s 10 dishes tied a career high, and helped snap a two-game Celtics losing streak.
The combined sniping of Kemba Walker, Semi Ojeleye and Payton Pritchard instead made the scoring difference, with the three Celtics shooting a combined 17-for-23 from 3-point range. Indeed, Ojeleye scaled the heights with career highs in points (24) and 3-pointers (six). Overall the Celtics shot 20-for-39 from downtown.
Walker’s pull-up 3-pointer with 4:41 left gave the Celtics a 105-95 lead. Kyle Lowry missed from the right corner and with 4:14 left Tatum scored in the paint.
Chris Boucher missed twice from the line, leaving the Celtics with a 12-point lead, Brown picked off a Fred VanVleet pass, and Ojeleye finished down the other end for a 109-95 edge. The Raptors turned it over again, and Walker made them pay with two more free throws, this time for a 16-point lead with 2:37 left.
Brown drove for a 113-95 lead, putting this one to rest.
A Celtics explosion – through three quarters the trio of Ojeleye, Pritchard and Walker shot 15-for-21 from downtown – was responsible for a 88-80 lead that probably should have been wider.
An ugly, scoreless seven-minutes-plus stretch consumed the last part of the quarter, though Pritchard immediately opened the fourth with his sixth trey.
Javonte Green got into the corner spirit with a three, Andre Bembry threw away the inbounds pass, and Brown added two free throws for a 96-82 lead off the ensuing possession.
The clang-fest so apparent over the last eight minutes of the third quarter resumed, until Kyle Lowry cut the Celtics lead to 96-87, followed by a Pascal Siakam drive off the baseline that trimmed it further, to seven points with 7:39 left.
Aron Baynes came out of a timeout with a transition dunk that cut the margin to five points, and Tatum immediately drove for the foul, hitting both free throws with seven minutes left.
Siakam answered with a jump hook, Brown hit twice after he was tripped by Lowry for a 100-93 Celtics edge. Following point-blank misses by VanVleet and Baynes, Brown hit twice more for a 102-93 edge that Lowry immediately trimmed.
Daniel Theis blocked Baynes, Brown rimmed out a 3-point attempt, and the next time down Walker pulled up for a 3-pointer and that 105-95 Celtics lead.
Ojeleye had a career first half, with 19 points that included 5-for-7 3-point shooting, all from the corners. Toss in four threes from Pritchard, and the Celtics were able to survive a two-point, 1-for-8 half from Brown, not to mention 30 paint points from the Raptors. But on the way to a 66-56 Celtics halftime lead, it was clear that their two leaders were more focused on getting the rest involved.
By the break Tatum and Brown had combined for 13 assists, overall with the team attaching 16 assists to 21 baskets.
Brown had a mixed opening – he drove for only his second basket early in the third, but miffed that he didn’t get a call, was also whistled for a technical foul. After filling the playmaking role in the first half, Brown and Tatum were clearly looking more for their shots in the third quarter.
Ojeleye tied his career scoring high (22 points) with a his career high sixth 3-pointer, followed by Pritchard’s fifth bomb. One Walker 3-pointer later – this one off the glass – the Celtics led by 15 points (86-71).
Toronto cut the Celtics lead as close as nine points (86-77) before some truly ragged play at both ends ensued until, just over seven minutes later, Grant Williams scored for a brief 11-point edge. Chris Boucher hit from downtown, cutting the Celtics lead to 88-80 by the end of the quarter.