TORONTO – This time of year, it’s too soon to look at matchups being statement games or anything like that.
More than anything else it gives teams a better sense of where they stand relative to other teams, at this juncture in the season.
Boston and Toronto began this season considered two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
And they did not disappoint, delivering the kind of down-to-the-wire finish you come to expect when two of the best collide.
In the end, Toronto did just enough to escape with a 113-101 victory.
And it was indeed a team win for the Raptors (2-0) as five players scored in double figures. Boston had similar balance with all five of its starters reaching double figures as well.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from one of the better games in this still-early NBA season.
Kawhi Leonard put his imprint on the game just seconds into the game with those ginormous mitts of his picking off a Celtics pass. As the game wore on, Leonard’s two-way talent continued to shine brighter and brighter. He led the Raptors with 31 points to go with 10 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games with the Raptors.
It wasn’t as much about the point total Gordon Hayward had on Friday, but more so how the points were coming. He was driving to the basket, looking for 3’s, using his dribble to get into the lane and draw contact – all the things he did prior to suffering a season-ending injury a year ago. He tallied 14 points to go with seven rebounds.
In the first half, Serge Ibaka consistently found soft spots in the Celtics defense and exploited it for easy scores. He finished with 21 points, 13 of which came in the first half.
It was another not-so-stellar start for Kyrie Irving. But as we’ve seen throughout his career, Irving managed to find his shooting rhythm and finished with a strong stat line when all was said and done. He tallied 21 points on 10-for-20 shooting to go with six assists and four rebounds.
The assertiveness we saw at the end of last season continues on for Jayson Tatum, with many of his shot attempts tightly contested. But it didn’t matter much as Tatum finished with 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting from the field as well as nine rebounds.
Al Horford was giving the Celtics strong production in most of the major categories, well within a triple-double going into the fourth quarter. Horford, who shook off some early foul trouble, would finish with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds along with nine assists.
Boston’s second unit outscored the Raptors bench 23-19, but their main guys – Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart – never made the kind of impact this unit is capable of to turn the game’s momentum in their favor. With so little margin for error against a team as good as the Raptors, they can’t just have a solid game which was the case on Friday. They have to be more impactful as a unit in order to win these kind of games on the road.
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