The Boston Celtics gave their fans a Christmas to remember with a matinee victory over the defending NBA Champion Raptors in Toronto.
After missing three games with a nagging foot injury, Gordon Hayward made his return to the court for Boston on Christmas Day and helped the Celtics (21-7) pick up a key 118-102 win over Toronto (21-10) in the battle for power atop the Atlantic Division.
No. 20 pitched in 14 points on 6-of-9 from the field, including 2-of-4 from deep, while supplying six assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block.
Jaylen Brown stole the show with a 30-point, six-rebound, four-assist effort. In the process, the 23-year-old became the youngest player in franchise history to drop 30 into the scoring column on Christmas Day, surpassing Bill Russell, who accomplished the feat as a 24-year-old back in 1958.
“I was just trying to be efficient,” Brown said after shooting 10-of-13 from the field, 5-of-7 from long range and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. “I think that was the goal – just being aggressive, but trying to make every shot. No wasted motion. It was good to get a win here on Christmas. I’d never won here, period, so it was great to get one.”
Even the Raptors saw and acknowledged the swagger in Brown’s game tonight.
“He played with extreme confidence,” said the Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. “He played with some bounce [today], and his overall game was just flowing. When he’s making his 3, it makes him really difficult to guard.”
The Celtics fell behind early as Toronto got off to a hot start hosting the opening game of the NBA’s Christmas Day marquee quintet of games. But Boston surged ahead late in the frame and hardly looked back. G-Time scored four of his 14 points in the opening frame, both buckets coming in the span of a little less than a minute. Those baskets kicked off a 13-2 Boston run to the lead. Their lead stood at eight at halftime after two more points from Gordon in the second quarter.
Early in the third quarter, No. 20 buried a trey and dished out a pair of assists as Boston extended their lead to double digits. They led by 19 after three and their advantage peaked at 22 in a fourth-quarter that saw Gordon drive in for a layup early and later bury yet another triple to push the lead to 21. The Celts cruised from there to a holiday win. According to Celtics coach Brad Stevens, Gordon’s return and the additional offensive firepower he provides to an already explosive offensive attack only makes Boston better.
“It allows you to keep two of those guys on the court at one time,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said. “When we subbed out Gordon and Kemba (Walker), you are able to keep Jaylen and Jayson (Tatum) on the court or vice versa, whatever, some combination of that. That will only get better when (Marcus) Smart gets back.”
Walker added 22 points and Tatum scored 11 along with nine rebounds as their team effort keyed Boston to its first win in Toronto since April 4, 2015. Boston now has a four-game winning streak.
The C’s (21-7) will be in action Friday afternoon back home TD Garden for a match with the Cleveland Cavilers (9-21). Tip-off is at 4 p.m. and can be seen on NBA TV.