TAMPA, FLORIDA (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 40 points and the Boston Celtics rolled to a 126-114 win over the Toronto Raptors yesterday.
Playing without three of their top guards, the Celtics shook off a slow start to lead by as many as 26 in the second half. They shot 48.8 per cent overall.
Tatum turned the game around with 21 points in the second quarter. He hit five three-pointers on the night and converted all 13 free throws, finishing one point short of his career high set against New Orleans last January.
“Disappointed? No,” Tatum shrugged. “I’m going to get there soon enough.”
Rookie guard Payton Pritchard had 23 points and eight assists in 32 minutes for the Celtics (5-3), and Jaylen Brown scored 19. Robert Williams III came off the bench to contribute 11 points and 15 rebounds.
“Tatum was tremendous tonight but we had a lot of good performances, playing on a back-to-back with no excuses,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “We had a lot of guys out.”
Playing in front of fans for the first time in 10 months was a refreshing change for Tatum. A maximum-allowed crowd of 3,740 attended the game in 19,000-seat Amalie Arena.
“It felt great,” he said. “I missed playing in front of people. There were a lot of Boston people here. It felt different with people in the stands, but I enjoyed it.”
Fred VanVleet led the Raptors (1-5) with 35 points and eight rebounds.
VanVleet scored 14 in the first quarter and Toronto made seven of its first nine 3s to lead 28-15 through the first eight minutes. But the Raptors missed their next 13 tries from three-point territory, and by the time VanVleet hit one with 7:24 left in the third quarter, they were down by 15.
Tatum took over late in the first half, scoring 13 points during an 18-2 Boston run. He finished the half with four straight free throws to put the Celtics up 61-46. They stretched the lead to 23 in the third quarter, and when Tatum went to the bench with five fouls with 9:52 left in the game, Boston led 109-83.
The Raptors, who have held double-digit leads in every game this season, shot 40 per cent overall and finished 13 for 37 from behind the arc.