The Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics met Thursday in a fiery clash of Eastern Conference contenders. It was an excellent game that had some physicality, but in the end, the Raptors completed a comeback from a 17-point deficit to capture a 107-97 victory.
The Raptors, Celtics, Washington Wizards and the Atlanta Hawks are teams in the East seen having the best chance to oust or at least come close to reigning champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. A game featuring two of these squads is always a must watch. That is what happened when the Raptors recently hosted the Celtics at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto played the game without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry who is nursing a wrist injury. Despite this, the Raptors still managed to beat Boston as they were led by their other All-Star, DeMar DeRozan. The 27-year-old exploded for a career-high 43 points, also having five rebounds and five assists. Helping him were newcomers Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. Ibaka, who was traded from the Orlando Magic, contributed 15 points, seven rebounds, one steal and one block. Tucker, who was acquired from the Phoenix Suns, added nine points, 10 rebounds, one assist and three steals.
Meanwhile, for the Celtics, it was All-Star playmaker Isaiah Thomas who led the way as he tallied 20 points, three rebounds plus five assists. Thomas, in the second quarter, was involved in an altercation after a hard foul from the Raptors’ DeMarre Carroll.
The Celtics were up by 11 with less than three minutes left in the period when Carroll nudged Thomas who was trying to finish a fast break play. Thomas went down, although he immediately stood up to accost Carroll. Their teammates and the officials tried to pacify the situation. Boston’s Jae Crowder also had some words for the Raptors forward. All three of them were handed a technical foul, Carroll was even slapped with a flagrant 1.
In a report by ESPN, Thomas expressed his thoughts regarding Carroll’s foul after the game. He believes the push was intentional and is “not a basketball play.” The 28-year-old went on to blast the Raptors veteran.
“Guys who aren’t factors in games do that. It is what it is,” Thomas stated.
Aside from Thomas, Crowder and Marcus Smart stepped up for Boston in Thursday’s defeat. Crowder had 19 points, four rebounds, and one assist. Smart came off the bench and also had 19 points, which came along with five rebounds, and four assists. Rookie Jaylen Brown tallied 13 points in a losing effort.
This is not the first time things got heated between the Raptors and the Celtics. Back in January, the Raptors’ Jonas Valančiūnas ripped the Celtics saying they are only playing for the second spot in East while his team is gunning for No. 1. During that time, the Raptors were just a few games away from the Cavs.
However, this February, it was Boston’s turn. To open the month, the Celtics defeated the Raptors, and the win was part of a streak that helped them be second in the conference. Thomas then fired back and said Valančiūnas was unable to back up his words, with the Celtics now the ones aiming to take the top seed in the conference.
This rivalry is expected to be more interesting as the postseason nears and the race in the East goes on. The latest win gave the Raptors a 34-24 record to be the fourth-best team in their conference. They have won back-to-back and can go for three straight when they host the Portland Trail Blazers this Sunday. Meanwhile, the Celtics have lost two consecutive, and they are currently at 37-21, still enough to be No. 2 in the East. They will continue their road trip, also on Sunday, when they face the Detroit Pistons.
[Featured Image by Rick Bowmer/AP Images]