Celtics con­tinue win­ning streak

The Freeman - - FRONT PAGE -

BOS­TON — Al Hor­ford scored a team-high 21 points in his re­turn as the Bos­ton Celtics played with­out Kyrie Irv­ing but still man­aged to hang on for their 12th straight vic­tory yes­ter­day.

The Celtics had to dig deep into the depths of their ros­ter, as they have done through­out their win­ning streak, to de­feat the Toronto Rap­tors 95-94 in front of a crowd of 18,600 at the Bos­ton Gar­den.

Hor­ford missed two games due to a con­cus­sion and his re­turn was wel­come news af­ter all-star Irv­ing suf­fered a fa­cial frac­ture in Fri­day's win over Char­lotte when he was ac­ci­dently struck in the mouth by a team­mate.

Hor­ford led five Celtics in dou­ble fig­ures on Sun­day as Jaylen Brown scored 18 points, Terry Rozier scored 16, Mar­cus Smart 14 and rookie Jayson Ta­tum de­liv­ered 13 points and seven re­bounds.

The Celtics are the first team in NBA his­tory with a dou­ble-digit win streak while hav­ing more than four rook­ies on their ros­ter. Ta­tum is the most prom­i­nent of the six rook­ies con­tribut­ing to the team's re­mark­able early sea­son suc­cess.

"It's un­be­liev­able ... we are play­ing good teams too," Rozier said. The Rap­tors had a chance to win the game in the fi­nal sec­onds as DeMar DeRozan went one-on-one with Brown but his shot at the buzzer clanged off the rim.

Bos­ton held on de­spite not scor­ing a bas­ket over the fi­nal 86 sec­onds. Guard Irv­ing could re­turn soon as he spent the week­end visit­ing a spe­cial­ist to be fit­ted for a play­ing mask to pro­tect the fa­cial frac­ture which has been de­scribed as mi­nor. Doc­tors say there is no sign of a con­cus­sion, said coach Brad Stevens.

"The good news is thus far that's the only point of pain in his face or head or neck or any­thing else," said Stevens.

Irv­ing scored a then-ca­reer-high 41 points the last time he wore a mask in De­cem­ber 2012 while play­ing for the Cleve­land Cavaliers.

DeRozan led the Rap­tors, who fell to 7-5 on the sea­son, with 24 points for his sev­enth straight 20-point game.

"They are the best team in the NBA right now and they are play­ing un­be­liev­able," Toronto's Kyle Lowry said. "Ev­ery­body is pick­ing up slack."

Lowry scored 19 points and dished out seven as­sists and

CJ Miles was the only other Rap­tor in dou­ble fig­ures with

10 points.

Lowry passed An­drea Bargnani to move into fourth place on the Rap­tors' all-time scor­ing list.

Else­where, James Har­den had 26 points and a sea­son-high 15 as­sists to lead the

Hous­ton Rock­ets to a 118-95 rout of the

In­di­ana Pac­ers.

Har­den hit nine of 21 shots from the field, fel­low guard Eric Gor­don chipped in with 21 points, and cen­tre Clint Capela con­trib­uted 20 points and a team-high 17 re­bounds.

It was the sixth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory for the Rock­ets, who led through­out. Vic­tor Oladipo led the Pac­ers with 28 points on 11-of-17 shoot­ing from the field.

In Detroit, Tobias Har­ris led five play­ers in dou­ble fig­ures with 25 points to help the Pis­tons earn a 112-103 win over the Mi­ami Heat and fin­ish un­beaten on the five-game home­s­tand. (AFP)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bos­ton Celtics' Mar­cus Smart goes to the bas­ket over Toronto Rap­tors' Serge Ibaka dur­ing the first quar­ter of an NBA bas­ket­ball game in Bos­ton.

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