NBA: Depleted Celtics edge out Raptors for ninth straight win

Jaylen Brown during the Celtics' 106-104 win over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES - The Boston Celtics shook off the absence of injured Jayson Tatum and the early departures of Marcus Smart and Robert Williams to beat the Toronto Raptors 106-104 on Saturday and push their National Basketball Association 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 81-85 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’s three-pointer with 2min 23sec to play.

Pritchard, who scored all of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, drained another three-pointer that proved to be enough.

Malcolm Brogdon added 23 points off the bench for Boston, whose top scorer Tatum was sidelined with a sore left wrist.

Tatum, who is averaging 31.2 points per game, third-most in the league, scored 51 points in a win over Charlotte on Monday and had 34 with 19 rebounds against Golden State, playing 48 minutes in the overtime triumph.

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.

“Every night we compete to the highest level,” he said. “We can’t ever settle for less or just take a night off because that’s just not who we are.

“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.

“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, stayed in the game briefly but sat out the second half.

Celtics coach Joe Mazulla 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.”

Pascal Siakam had 29 points and 10 assists to lead the Raptors, who were missing Fred Van Vleet with rib soreness. O.G Anunoby departed in the third quarter with right ankle trouble.

In Phoenix, a dependable Mikal Bridges had 22 points and four steals, Bismack Biyombo and Josh Okogie made surprising contributions and the Phoenix Suns overcame the absence of four starters to defeat the visiting Indiana Pacers 112-107.

In Minneapolis, Anthony Edwards scored a season-high 44 points and the Minnesota Timberwolves rallied from a 12-point, second-half deficit to defeat the reeling Houston Rockets 113-104. AFP, REUTERS

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