LOS ANGELES (AFP) — The Boston Celtics shook off the absence of injured Jayson Tatum and the early exits of Marcus Smart and Robert Williams to beat the Toronto Raptors 106-104 on Saturday and push their NBA winning streak to nine games.
Jaylen Brown scored 27 points and Grant Williams added a career-high 25 for the Celtics, who improved their league-best record to 35-12.
Coming off a gritty overtime win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, the Celtics trailed 85-81 going into the fourth quarter.
But they opened the final frame with a 9-0 run courtesy of three-pointers from Brown, Payton Pritchard and Grant Williams and stayed in front until Toronto tied it up at 103-103 on Gary Trent Jr.’s three-pointer with 2:23 to play.
Pritchard, who scored all of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, drained another three-pointer that proved to be enough after veteran Al Horford came up with a block and a steal in the final 10 seconds.
Malcolm Brogdon added 23 points off the bench for Boston, whose top scorer Tatum was sidelined with a sore left wrist.
Grant Williams said Tatum’s absence was no reason for the Celtics to surrender the mindset of an elite team gunning to get back to the NBA Finals for a second straight year after falling to Golden State in the title series.
“You can’t back down from any challenge, no matter if you’re down 12 guys, no matter if you’re down four, no matter if you’re down two, no matter if you’re a full team,” he said. “You have to do your job.”
Smart rolled his right ankle in the second quarter and left the game while Robert Williams hurt his left knee.
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said Williams’s injury was “nothing serious” and Smart had a sprained ankle.
“X-rays were negative,” he said of Smart, who had to be helped off the court. “So it’s just a matter of how he’s able to cope with it day to day.”
The Philadelphia 76ers, playing without star center Joel Embiid and playmaker James Harden because of injury management, completed a perfect 5-0 road trip against Western Conference teams with a 129-127 victory over the Kings in Sacramento.
The 76ers ended the Kings’ six-game win streak, using a big third quarter to turn the tide after trailing by 21 on the way to a 10-point halftime deficit.
Tyrese Maxey led the Sixers with 32 points and six assists.
Domantas Sabonis had a near triple-double for Sacramento with 16 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. De’Aaron Fox scored 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter — when the Kings got an 11-point deficit down to one three times before the Sixers closed it out.
Mobley propels Cavs
In Cleveland, Evan Mobley scored a career-high 38 points in a 114-102 victory over a Milwaukee Bucks team missing two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
A day earlier, the Cavs let a Golden State team missing star shooter Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green get past them, with coach J.B. Bickerstaff saying his team “got what we deserved” after taking the depleted Warriors too lightly.
On Saturday, second-year forward Mobley was laser-focused, connecting on 19 of 27 shots from the field and grabbing nine rebounds.
Mobley scored 14 points in the fourth quarter alone. Darius Garland added 21 points and 10 assists and Caris LeVert, starting in place of the Cavs’ injured top scorer Donovan Mitchell, added 13 points.
Milwaukee led by Jrue Holiday’s 28 points, trailed much of the contest but managed to edge ahead twice early in the fourth quarter before Cleveland closed the door.
In Minneapolis, Anthony Edwards scored a season-high 44 points to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 113-104 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Elsewhere the lowly Charlotte Hornets claimed back-to-back games for just the second time this season as they eked out a 122-118 victory over the Hawks in Atlanta.
The Hornets, down by as many as 19 in the third quarter, snapped the Hawks’ five-game winning streak.
Terry Rozier led Charlotte with 34 points, including three free-throws with 1.1 seconds left and another pair of free throws to seal it.
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