The Boston Celtics took care of business against the Toronto Raptors despite missing three key starters.
Jayson Tatum (left hip contusion), Marcus Smart (left-side neck spasm), and Al Horford (low back stiffness) were sidelined for Wednesday’s matchup. Fortunately, Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams returned to the C’s lineup after missing Tuesday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Brown took over the No. 1 role in Tatum’s absence and notched a double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Malcolm Brogdon (29 points) and Derrick White (17 points) stepped up to help treat the TD Garden crowd to a 97-93 bounce-back win.
Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 28 points and 11 boards. Scottie Barnes chipped in 18 points.
Boston will host Toronto for a rematch Friday night, the penultimate game of the regular season. First, here are our takeaways from Wednesday’s victory.
Malcolm Brogdon plays the hero
With Tatum, Smart, and Horford out, the Celtics needed a big night out of at least one of their secondary scorers. It was Brogdon who rose to the occasion.
Brogdon dropped a game-high 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting (4-6 3PT) in 34 minutes off the bench. It was the veteran guard’s second-highest-scoring game of the season.
He was the catalyst for the Celtics offense all game long and he stepped up in crunch time. After Toronto went on a 10-1 run to tie the game in the fourth quarter, Brogdon drilled a 3-pointer to regain the lead and then found Mike Muscala with a nice assist on the following possession.
To say Brogdon has been a difference-maker for the C’s this season would be a massive understatement. He’ll play a huge role in the postseason as they look to make another run to the NBA Finals.
Mike Muscala steps up in starting role
The trade deadline acquisition of Muscala hasn’t amounted to a whole lot, but the big man proved valuable for the short-handed C’s on Wednesday night.
With Horford and Tatum out, Muscala was in the starting lineup for the third time this season and he made the most of his opportunity. He drilled three of his five 3-point attempts, one of them coming with the game hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-11 center ended up with 12 points and six rebounds in 32 minutes.
Muscala’s performance is an encouraging sign for Boston’s big man depth heading into the playoffs.
More time for Time Lord
Speaking of big man depth, the C’s hope they won’t have to dig too deep and that Robert Williams will be 100 percent throughout the postseason. He definitely looked to be 100 percent in Wednesday’s win.
Williams had seven points, eight rebounds, one block and one steal. A solid night all around, but the number that jumps off the page is his 31 minutes after missing Tuesday’s game with left knee injury management.
Head coach Joe Mazzulla told our Abby Chin during halftime that the Celtics are trying to stretch out Williams’ minutes ahead of the playoffs.
The decision to stretch Williams’ minutes seems to show the C’s are confident in his health after limiting his minutes recently. That’s certainly what fans want to hear as Williams could be the difference between Banner 18 and another disappointing ending to the season.
The Celtics officially have the No. 2 seed in the East as a result of their victory and the Milwaukee Bucks’ win over the Chicago Bulls. That means they will take on the winner of the play-in tournament game between the No. 7 and 8 seeds in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
The Raptors’ loss essentially puts them out of the No. 8 seed, which leaves the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat as the C’s potential first-round opponents. Miami is 3-1 against Atlanta this season.
Boston will host Toronto again Friday night, then wrap up its regular season Sunday against Atlanta at TD Garden.