LOS ANGELES, (AFP) - Kyrie Irving scored 23 of his 43 points in the fourth quarter and overtime Friday as the Boston Celtics made a statement with a 123-116 victory over the NBA’s Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors.
Irving added 11 assists and Jayson Tatum chipped in 21 points and seven rebounds for the Celtics, who erased an eight-point fourth quarter deficit to improve to 9-6 while the Raptors fell to 12-4.
Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost three in a row since opening the season with 12 wins in their first 13 games.
Trailing 82-78 at the end of the third quarter, the Celtics were down 86-78 after Leonard’s layup with 10:37 left in the fourth.
But they out-scored Toronto 29-25 in the final frame, knotting the score at 90-90 on Irving’s three-pointer.
Toronto regained a 107-103 lead with 1:29 remaining in regulation, but Tatum’s dunk and Gordon Hayward’s free throws pulled Boston level, while Leonard missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer.
Boston quickly seized control in overtime, in which they never trailed.
“We wanted to come out and be the aggressive team,” Irving said. “We got kind of stalled in that third quarter, but we picked it up again down the stretch.”
Hayward called the victory “a building block”.
“We’re still not playing our best basketball,” he said. “I think we’ve shown numerous times we are fighters and we will continue to fight, but we have to get to the point where we are playing 48 minutes of basketball.”
In Philadelphia, Jimmy Butler scored 28 points in his home debut for the 76ers, leading the way in a 113-107 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Butler, acquired on Monday from the Minnesota Timberwolves, got a warm welcome from Philly fans and made a quick impact as the hosts seized a 16-point lead in the first quarter.
The Jazz dug in to make it close, and the teams traded the lead six times in the fourth quarter.