Celtics hold off Rap­tors 95-94 for 12th straight vic­tory

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BOS­TON — Al Hor­ford turned back the clock in his re­turn from a two-game ab­sence with a con­cus­sion.

Hor­ford scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shoot­ing to help the Bos­ton Celtics hang on to beat the Toronto Rap­tors 9594 on Sun­day for their 12th straight vic­tory.

“He’s play­ing young again,” team­mate Terry Rozier said.

Hor­ford had 15 points, 10 re­bounds and nine as­sists against his for­mer team in At­lanta on Mon­day night, the same day an el­bow to the head from Kent Baze­more sent him into the NBA’s con­cus­sion pro­to­col. Hor­ford also missed nine games last sea­son with a con­cus­sion.

Hor­ford dis­agreed with Rozier’s as­sess­ment, think­ing he’s play­ing even bet­ter.

“I don’t know if young Al Hor­ford played like this, to be hon­est,” the for­mer four-time All-Star said.

“You know, it’s been years of just work­ing on my game and try to play this new way.”

Bos­ton (12-2) was play­ing with­out Kyrie Irv­ing af­ter he took an in­ad­ver­tent el­bow to the face from team­mate Aron Baynes on Fri­day night against Char­lotte. Irv­ing has a mi­nor fa­cial frac­ture but has not been di­ag­nosed with a con­cus­sion as ini­tially feared.

Jaylen Brown added 18 points, and Rozier helped fill in for Irv­ing with 16 points off the bench. Bos­ton shot just 40.2 per­cent from the field.

DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points, and Kyle Lowry had 19 points and seven as­sists for Toronto. The Rap­tors dropped to 75 af­ter win­ning two straight.

“They are the best team in the NBA right now, 12 in a row,” Lowry said. “They’re play­ing un­be­liev­able, ev­ery­one is pick­ing up slack.”

Jayson Ta­tum’s ac­ro­batic layup with 1:26 re­main­ing in the fourth quar­ter put the Celtics up 95-90.

DeRozan missed a po­ten­tial go-ahead step­back jumper with 19 sec­onds re­main­ing.

Ta­tum got the re­bound, but el­bowed Fred VanVleet in the face for an of­fen­sive foul that was con­firmed by video re­view.

DeRozan had an­other look to give Toronto the win, but missed a turn­around jumper with 2 sec­onds left. Serge Ibaka scooped up the re­bound, but lost the ball as time ex­pired.

“He shook him, he was wide open, vaulted up, and I’ll take that shot 999 times out of 1,000,” Rap­tors coach Dwane Casey said about DeRozan’s ef­fort. Brown, who was guard­ing DeRozan on the fi­nal pos­ses­sion, was a bit sur­prised him­self that the shot didn’t go down.

“That’s a shot that DeMar DeRozan prob­a­bly hits nine times out of ten,” Brown said. “I got a late con­test, but he missed this one so we’ll take the win.”

Bos­ton’s 12-game win­ning streak is tied for its third-long­est in the last 30 years. The Celtics also won 12 straight from Jan. 11Feb. 3, 2009.

Toronto has never snapped an op­po­nent’s win­ning streak of 10 or more games in fran­chise his­tory, ac­cord­ing to Elias Sports Bureau.

Irv­ing vis­ited a fa­cial spe­cial­ist Sun­day and was fit­ted for a mask af­ter be­ing in­jured Fri­day.

The last time Irv­ing played in a mask was on Dec. 15, 2012, when he scored a then-ca­reer-high 41 points ver­sus New York with Cleve­land.

Lowry’s 3-pointer with 5:32 left in the first quar­ter moved him past An­drea Bargnani (6,581 points) into fourth place on Toronto’s scor­ing list.

Vince Carter is third with 9,420 points. AP

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