Siakam has 40, Raptors edge Celtics 115-112 in OT

TORONTO – Pascal Siakam had 40 points and 13 rebounds and the Toronto Raptors beat the hottest team in the Eastern Conference on Monday, downing the Boston Celtics 115-112 in overtime.

Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby scored 14 points apiece, while Gary Trent Jr. and Thaddeus Young finished with 12 apiece, and Scottie Barnes chipped in with 10 for the Raptors (43-32), winners of nine of their last 11 games.

Marcus Smart had 28 points to top the East-leading Celtics (47-29), who saw their six-game win streak come to a halt.

With seven games left in the regular season, the Raptors went into Monday clutching a one-game lead over Cleveland for sixth spot in the East. A top-six finish would mean going straight to the post-season and avoiding play-in games.

The Raptors trailed by 11 points in the first quarter of Monday’s rough-and-tumble game. They finally took their first lead late in the second, and paced the Celtics basket for basket though a third quarter that saw neither team lead by more than three points. The score was tied 80-80 through three quarters before a capacity crowd of 19,800 that included Canada’s World Cup-bound men’s soccer team.

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Payton Pritchard’s three-pointer early in the fourth had Boston up by seven, but Young replied with five straight points and VanVleet knocked down back-to-back threes, to ear-splitting cheers from the crowd, and it was a one-point game with 3:08 to play.

Trailing by four with a minute to play, Siakam drove to the hoop to slice the difference to two, then grabbed a defensive rebound and was fouled with 12.6 seconds left. He made both to tie it up and send the game to OT tied 106-106.

Trailing by four in the extra period, Anunoby connected from long distance, then Siakam scored on consecutive baskets for a three-point Raptors lead with 1:47 to play.

Siakam fouled out with 51.4 seconds left. The two teams traded free throws, Trent Jr.’s two foul shots clinching the victory for Toronto.

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Coach Nick Nurse talked pre-game about the terrific challenge Boston posed, arriving on a sizzling streak of 22 wins in their previous 24 games.

“Their defence has been incredible. Their offence has been incredible,” Nurse said. “The run that they’re on is as hot as anybody’s been that I can remember.”

Smart had two of Boston’s six three-pointers in the first quarter Monday, his second one putting the Celtics up by 11 points midway through the frame. Boston led 38-30 to star the second.

The Raptors outscored the Celtics 29-20 in an entertaining second that saw a flurry of sevent steals. Anunoby’s steal and dunk saw Toronto take its first lead, 48-47, with 3:26 left in the first half. Siakam had a steal and basket on Toronto’s next possession for a three-point lead.

With three seconds left in the half, VanVleet swiped the ball off Pritchard and was fouled for a three-point play. The Raptors went into halftime up 59-58.

Canada’s men’s soccer team earned a standing ovation during a time out, taking centre court during a tribute to the team a day after clinching the country’s first World Cup berth since 1986 with a 4-0 victory over Jamaica at Toronto’s BMO Field.

“Congratulations to those guys,” said Nurse, who also coaches Canada’s men’s basketball team. “It was really a long wait, a long haul, and they’ve been tremendous through this whole thing.”

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Asked if the passion can transfer between national teams, Nurse said “I think hopefully the specialness they see is intriguing, being able to accomplish things on a national team front, from sport to sport.”

The Raptors host Minnesota on Wednesday then head to Orlando for the first of just two remaining road games on their regular season. The other is their season finale at New York on April 10.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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