Celtics vs. Raptors takeaways: Blake Griffin plays big role in hard-fought win

The resilient Boston Celtics shook off an early rut to earn an impressive road win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.

Turnovers and foul trouble resulted in Boston trailing by six heading into the second half. Whatever C’s coach Joe Mazzulla told his team in the locker room, it resonated. The C’s outscored Toronto by 20 points in the third quarter and held on in the fourth to escape with a 116-110 victory.

Jayson Tatum (31 points, 12 rebounds) led the charge while Marcus Smart (18 points, seven assists) helped the Celtics regain the lead in the third quarter. Jaylen Brown (22 points, eight assists, eight rebounds) did a little bit of everything to propel his team to another hard-fought road win.

Pascal Siakam (29 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) starred for the Raptors in a losing effort. Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr added 21 and 20 points, respectively.

Here are our takeaways from the Celtics’ win, which brings them to a league-best 20-5 on the season. Next up is a meeting with the Western Conference-leading Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.

Blake Griffin excellent as a spot starter

The last time we saw Griffin on the court, he turned back the clock with a one-handed alley-oop dunk vs the Charlotte Hornets. The veteran big man notched nine points and four rebounds as a spot starter replacing Al Horford on the second night of a back-to-back.

Griffin replaced Horford in the starting lineup again on Monday night and, just like he did against Charlotte, he showed he has something left in the tank. He took flight with a violent one-handed jam late in the second quarter.

The highlight-worthy play wasn’t the only thing Griffin brought to the table. In fact, he played a major role in the Celtics securing their second consecutive victory.

Griffin was a monster on the glass with eight rebounds, including three offensive boards. His hustle was a difference-maker on both ends.

He finished with 13 points (5-6 FG), including the dagger with 26.8 seconds remaining in the final frame.

The 33-year-old might be sore tomorrow, but it was worth it as he again proved to be a reliable replacement for Horford when the fellow veteran needs rest. When Griffin doesn’t have to play every night, he can provide flashbacks of his Lob City days.

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown catch fire

It was none other than Tatum leading the way when the C’s erupted for 38 points to regain the lead in the third quarter. The NBA MVP frontrunner tallied 17 of his 31 points in the frame.

It was another clutch effort from Tatum after he scored 12 points in the final six minutes of Sunday’s win in Brooklyn. He ended up leading all scorers with 31 points (11-24 FG) while adding 12 rebounds to his stat line.

Jaylen Brown struggled with his shot for much of the night (9-22 FG) but stepped up when it mattered most. He hit several big shots in the second half to finish with 22 points. He nearly finished with a triple-double as he also had eight assists and eight boards.

Perhaps most importantly, Brown is taking better care of the basketball. Monday’s win marked his second consecutive game without a turnover, a significant development given his previous turnover woes.

Marcus Smart picks up where he left off

Marcus Smart was unbothered by the left hip contusion that kept him sidelined on Sunday.

The veteran point guard was one of the Celtics’ biggest contributors during their third-quarter run. He scored eight points (3-4 FG, 2-3 3-PT) while dishing four assists in the frame.

Smart finished with 18 points (7-14 FG), seven assists, three rebounds, and two steals. He’s in the midst of one of his best seasons as a scorer and by far his most impressive a playmaker. With Monday’s effort, he now has at least seven assists in 12 of his last 14 games.

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