The Celtics got a taste of the stiff competition that awaits them in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday night as they fell to their division rival Raptors 125-119 in overtime in a preseason tuneup at TD Garden despite another strong performance by the team’s regulars.
Jaylen Brown led all scorers with 23 points while Jayson Tatum added a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Joe Mazzulla played his starting five close to regular minutes in the exhibition tilt as he tries to build up their workload. Malcolm Brogdon also shined off the bench with his passing for the second straight game, dishing out a game-high nine assists in just 23 minutes. Pascal Siakam and Precious Achiuwa had a team-high 13 points for the Raptors before Toronto’s bench rallied against the Celtics deep bench in the fourth quarter to erase a double-digit lead and seal the win.
Boston dropped to 1-1 this preseason with the loss while the Raptors improved to 2-0. The Celtics will hit the road next and head to North Carolina for a rematch with the Hornets on Friday night.
Here are four takeaways from tonight’s game.
Jaylen Brown stays red hot: The veteran wing said he’s entering this preseason in the best shape of his life and it’s shown out of the gate. He led all scorers in the first half with 19 points of his game-high 23 points and did it incredibly efficiently by knocking down seven of his first 11 shots including three from 3-point range. Beyond missing three straight free throws in one sequence, Brown looks like he’s in midseason form already and extra motivated on the heels of his name being mentioned in trade rumors this offseason.
Blake Griffin still waiting to debut: The recent addition to Boston’s frontcourt was on the bench with his new teammates for the first time but remained in street clothes coming off his first two practices with the team this week. “He played today and said he felt decent,” Joe Mazzulla said of Griffin. “I think we’ll kind of play it by ear and see what he’s feeling. He did some up-and-down today, so we’ll see.” Griffin’s next chance to make his season debut will come on the road against the Hornets on Friday night. With several regulars expecting to rest for that contest, the coaching staff will get their first chance to get an extended look at the 33-year-old.
Sam Hauser looks like the floor spacer the Celtics need: The second-year forward made the cut in Joe Mazzulla’s nine-man rotation in the first half, playing ahead of Payton Pritchard. That faith was rewarded as Hauser helped fuel a second quarter run by knocking down three 3s during the frame. He added two more in the second half, scoring a bench-high 22 points for the second straight game while going 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. During the preseason, he’s shooting 69 percent from 3-point range and looks like a lock to win Danilo Gallinari’s minutes off the bench since the veteran forward went down for the season.
Varying starting lineup looks continue for Boston: Mazzulla stuck with the same smaller starting lineup look for the second straight game, going with Derrick White in the backcourt with Marcus Smart. That group had an uneven start but performed better in the second half as the team especially Jayson Tatum (10 rebounds) did a far better job on the glass than on Sunday. Mazzulla benched White for Grant Williams to start the second half to give Boston a more traditional double big look. Look for the Celtics to keep varying these lineup looks based on matchups while Robert Williams is recovering from knee surgery.
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