The Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors 97-93, clinching the Atlantic Division title and the two seed in the East.
Resting Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford, the Celtics didn’t entirely look like themselves on offense, shooting just 28.9% percent from deep and 55.6% from the free throw line. Still, they matched Toronto’s torrid offensive pace with intense play on both ends of the floor and gutted out a win against a team jockeying for positioning in the play-in.
Malcolm Brogdon led the way with 29 points on 52.6% from the field — another highly efficient, highly effective night off the bench. His work from the mid-range helped the Celtics break through Toronto’s zone defense, and when the Raptors went on multiple runs in the second half, he was the guy to answer back.
“He takes pride in that second unit,” said Joe Mazzulla following the game. “In order to be a great team, you have to have people like that. Malcolm has come in here with patience and humility. When he plays at a high level, we’re really good.”
Jaylen Brown had 25 points to go with 11 rebounds and five assists. It was far from an efficient outing — and he struggled at times with the Raptors length, getting blocked five times — but he overall looked good in his return to the lineup.
“He’s done a good job versus different coverages,” said Mazzulla, highlighting his shift in his offensive attack when Toronto switched their coverage in the second half. “He’s just playing with a lot of poise and patience and taking what the defense gives him.”
Along with a strong performance, Brown also took home the Red Auerbach Award, an award given to the player who embodies most what it means to be a Celtic.
Brown said he was grateful to receive the honor. “I think Red Auerbach had a vision for this organization, and I think seeing that maintained is great,” he said. “I appreciate stuff like that. I put my everything into this team, I put my everything into this city.”
The Raptors need every win they can get to move up to the seven or eight seed. They fought hard all night, overcoming a 12-point halftime deficit and making it a two-point game with 12.5 seconds to go. Ultimately though, horrific three-point shooting (6/33, 18.8%) doomed them in what was a winnable game. Pascal Siakam led Toronto with 28 points on 58.8% from the field, while Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa had 18 and 16 respectively.
With the second seed officially clinched, the Celtics will likely rest their main rotation pieces with two games to go. If tonight proved anything though, they won’t take their foot off the gas.
“It’s all about being healthy going into the playoffs,” said Malcolm Brogdon, before adding, “we don’t want to lose these two games. We want to go in with momentum.”
Both teams will rest up before running it back on Friday at TD Garden.